EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Derrick Ward ran for career-best 215 yards and set up Brandon Jacobs' winning 2-yard touchdown run with 9:57 left in overtime and the Super Bowl champion New York Giants earned the NFC's top playoff seed with a 34-28 comeback victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night.
The final score warmed the hearts of the fans, who braved blustery wind and snow packed under their seats to see New York pull off the dramatic win. They tossed snowballs on to the field like confetti when Jacobs ended the game.
New York (12-3) forced the overtime when Jacobs plowed into the end zone from a yard out, and Eli Manning hit Domenik Hixon on a slant pattern for the tying 2-point conversion with 3:21 to play.
New York clinched a first-round bye earlier in the day when Atlanta beat Minnesota, but added the icing on this frosty night by beating Carolina (11-4) in the winner-take-all game for the NFC's top seed.
The loss spoiled record-tying four-touchdown performance by Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, who gave Carolina a 28-20 lead with a 30-yard TD run 2 minutes into the final quarter. He also scored on runs of 13, 5 and 1 yards.
The Panthers, who have qualified for the playoffs, can clinch the NFC South and the No. 2 seed with a win at New Orleans next weekend.
Saints 42, Lions 7
DETROIT - The Detroit Lions own a dubious piece of NFL history - with perhaps more on the way.
The Lions became the first 0-15 team ever when they were routed by the New Orleans Saints. The Lions will try to avoid a perfectly awful season in the finale at Green Bay, where they haven't won since 1991.
Drew Brees threw for 351 yards and two touchdowns after four Saints ran for scores in the first half. Brees stayed in the game with a 35-point lead late in the fourth quarter to move closer to Dan Marino's single-season record for yards passing. He needs 402 at home against Carolina to break Marino's record of 5,084 set in 1984.
The Lions were outscored by a combined 176 points at home this season, smashing the previous record of 146 set by the 1981 Colts. Only the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976 went through a season winless in the modern era, but it was a 14-game schedule.
Brees connected with Marques Colston twice in the third quarter for a 42-7 lead and a single-season franchise record of 29 touchdowns. The Saints also set a team record with their 50th TD of the year.
Detroit benched Dan Orlovsky early in the fourth quarter after he completed just 10 of 23 passes for 125 yards and two interceptions.
Drew Stanton entered and was 1-of-3 for 12 yards.
It got so ugly fans mockingly in the half-empty stadium chanted "Jo-ey! Jo-ey!" in reference to New Orleans' third-string quarterback Joey Harrington, who was the first of many first-round busts Detroit drafted during its miserable eight-season stretch.
Titans 31, Steelers 14
NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Kerry Collins threw for a touchdown, Chris Johnson and LenDale White ran for a score apiece, and the Titans routed the Steelers in a showdown of the AFC's best teams. Tennessee clinched the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Titans improved the NFL's best record to 13-2 with their 15th win in 17 games. But they were coming off a loss to Houston in which they failed to score a touchdown for the first time this year and were up against the NFL's stingiest defense.
They snapped back well, ending the Steelers' five-game winning streak and becoming the first team to top 300 yards against Pittsburgh (11-4) this season. They finished with 323 yards.
And the staunch defense did it without Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and end Kyle Vanden Bosch because of injuries. Their replacements helped them rest easy as the Titans sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times and forced him into four turnovers that they turned into 21 points.
Rookie Jason Jones, who started for Haynesworth, had 3 1/2 sacks and forced Roethlisberger into three fumbles. Michael Griffin, a Pro Bowl alternate, came up with two interceptions for Tennessee.
Falcons 24, Vikings 17
MINNEAPOLIS - The Falcons' stunning turnaround season will roll on into the playoffs, thanks to Matt Ryan's unflappable poise, Justin Blalock's hustle and the generosity of the Vikings.
Ryan threw for a touchdown and made no big mistakes, Blalock recovered a fumble in the end zone for another score and the Vikings committed four turnovers as Atlanta clinched a postseason berth.
Michael Turner rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown for the Falcons (10-5), who were 4-12 a year ago and ended the season without a head coach or a franchise quarterback.
With Mike Smith calling the shots and Ryan's steady hand, the Falcons have that and so much more now.
Tarvaris Jackson played very well in his second straight start for the Vikings (9-6), who could have clinched their first division title since 2000. Jackson threw for 233 yards and two scores and rushed for 76 yards, but also had a fumble at the Atlanta 16.
The league's leading rusher, Adrian Peterson, was held to 76 yards. He lost a fumble inside the Atlanta 20, another one on a botched handoff from Jackson and had one more that he recovered on the final drive.
The Vikings still have a shot at their first NFC North title, needing a Chicago loss in the last two weeks or a win over the New York Giants next week in the season finale. The Bears host Green Bay on Monday night, then play at Houston.
Bills 30, Broncos 23
DENVER - Now it all comes down to a trip to San Diego for the right to represent the woeful AFC West in the playoffs.
The Broncos blew an early 13-0 lead in the second-coldest game in Denver's history, setting up an all-or-nothing matchup against the Chargers next week for the division title.
The Broncos (8-7) led the Chargers (7-8) by three games with three to go, but now face the possibility of having led the West by themselves from opening weekend through Christmas with nothing to show for it.
The Chargers' win at Tampa Bay earlier in the day was blacked out at Invesco Field by Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who didn't want his team's emotional edge affected by San Diego's fortunes.
Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler threw for 359 yards and broke Jake Plummer's franchise record with 4,210 yards for the season. But Kawika Mitchell's interception at the goal line when the Broncos were threatening for the tying touchdown with less than six minutes left is what Cutler will surely remember most about this game.
The Bills are the fourth of the last five visitors to Invesco Field to leave with a win.
The 17-degree temperature at kickoff marked the second-coldest game on record ever played in Denver. The only one colder was the Broncos' game against San Diego on Dec. 10, 1972, when it was 9 degrees.
Chargers 41, Buccaneers 24
TAMPA, Fla. - Philip Rivers, the NFL's highest-rated passer, threw for 287 yards and four touchdowns, helping the Chargers keep their playoff hopes alive and deal a crushing blow to the Buccaneers' chances.
After their third straight win in what amounted to elimination games for a team that began the season with expectations of reaching the Super Bowl, San Diego (7-8) got the help it needed when Buffalo beat Denver.
Tampa Bay (9-6), which lost its first home game and has dropped three straight, could have clinched at least an NFC wild-card spot with a win and some outside help. Instead, the Bucs' day ended with quarterback Jeff Garcia's nose bloodied and hoping three other contenders - Atlanta, Philadelphia and Dallas - falter the rest of the way.
Rivers threw TD passes of 15 and 5 yards to Antonio Gates, the latter giving the Chargers the lead for good on the first play of the fourth quarter. Darren Sproles turned a screen pass into a 32-yard touchdown before Antoine Cason returned one of San Diego's two fourth-quarter interceptions 59 yards for a score.
Dolphins 38, Chiefs 31
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - In the coldest game they ever played, the Dolphins stayed hot.
Chad Pennington threw three touchdown passes, continuing one of the most remarkable comeback seasons in NFL history in temperatures that plunged into single digits. With their fourth victory in a row and eighth in nine games, the Dolphins (10-5) can clinch the AFC East next week just one year after finishing a league-worst 1-15. All they'll have to do is beat the Jets in the Meadowlands.
The temperature at kickoff was 10, with a wind chill of minus-12. Previously, the coldest game the Dolphins ever played was 14 degrees at Foxboro, Mass., on Dec. 11, 1977.
It was the second-coldest game at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs (2-13) concluded the home portion of what's certain to be the worst season in the 49-year history of the franchise. They were 1-7 at Arrowhead.
The loss, coming six days after the abrupt resignation of general manager Carl Peterson, would seem to cast the future of coach Herm Edwards in even greater doubt.
A Miami defense that hadn't yielded a touchdown in three weeks gave up four TDs and a season-high 492 yards to the Chiefs. But Pennington, the longtime Jet who was acquired in the offseason, was 26-of-34 in the brutal cold, including two touchdown tosses to Anthony Fasano.
Patriots 47, Cardinals 7
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - New England is peaking in time for the postseason, crushing Arizona with a blizzard of points on a snow-covered field. It won't keep the Cardinals out of the playoffs. And it might not be enough to get the Patriots in.
Showing vast superiority to the struggling champions of the weak NFC West, the Patriots pressured Kurt Warner into one of his worst games in 11 pro seasons as he threw for just 30 yards.
The Cardinals' defense was as miserable as the weather, allowing the Patriots to score on nine of their 10 possessions before Matt Cassel got the rest of the game off.
New England (10-5) held a huge margin of 514 to 186 yards. Cassel completed 20 of 36 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns a week after throwing for four touchdowns in a 49-26 win at Oakland.
New England clinched a better record than Arizona - which is 8-7, but 2-6 against winning teams - but could miss the playoffs for the first time in six years. The Patriots began the day tied for the AFC East lead with Miami and the New York Jets. Baltimore (10-5) has the tiebreaker edge over the Patriots for the conference's one available wild-card spot.
If the Patriots win at Buffalo next Sunday, they still may become the second team to miss the postseason with an 11-5 record since the NFL adopted a 16-game schedule in 1978.
Seahawks 13, Jets 3
SEATTLE - If this is Brett Favre's kind of weather, then the magic is gone for the veteran quarterback. And so likely are the Jets' playoff chances.
Seattle's Maurice Morris sliced through the snow like a sled for a season-high 116 yards and John Carlson scored the only touchdown on a short pass from backup Seneca Wallace as the lowly Seahawks ended New York's stay atop the AFC East.
Mike Holmgren, Favre's confidant and former coach in Green Bay, went out a winner in his final home game as the leader in Seattle - largely because Favre came up short when the Jets (9-6) needed him most.
New York must now beat AFC East co-leading Miami at home next week, and pray.
Either New England or Baltimore, also 10-5, must lose for the Jets to get in the playoffs. The Patriots are at Buffalo next week and the Ravens, aiming for the conference's last wild-card spot, host Jacksonville (5-10).
Holmgren, who's taking a sabbatical from football in 2009, took a victory lap around the edge of the field immediately after the second win in eight games for Seattle (4-11) as sentimental music blared over the public-address system. He and Favre also embraced on the field and spoke briefly after the game.
Holmgren had planned to perhaps shake some hands with the fans who have cheered him while transforming the Seahawks in his 10 years, but snow cleared from the field before the game was piled up the railing of seats and prevented him from getting closer.
Redskins 10, Eagles 3
LANDOVER, Md. - Jim Zorn sure didn't look like the worst coach in America. Instead, he's the coach who got his Redskins turned around a week too late - with a stop at the 1-yard line on the game's final play.
As Reggie Brown caught the ball near the goal line, cornerback Fred Smoot lifted him into the air, and safety LaRon Landry supplied the shove that kept the Eagles receiver out of the end zone. With no timeouts remaining, Philadelphia couldn't stop the clock as the last seconds ticked away.
Washington stymied an Eagles team that was averaging close to 33 points during a three-game winning streak, and Clinton Portis scored his first touchdown in eight weeks in a win that offered the Redskins a consolation prize on the day they were mathematically eliminated from the postseason.
The Redskins (8-7) had lost three in a row and five of six after a 6-2 start, prompting Zorn last week to say he felt "like the worst coach in America."
Meanwhile, the Eagles (8-6-1) were left ruing a chance to stay ahead of Dallas and Tampa Bay (both 9-6) with one week to play. Philadelphia has a must-win game at home against Dallas in next week's season finale, and still could fall short of the playoffs with a victory.
49ers 17, Rams 16
ST. LOUIS - Isaac Bruce reached a pair of milestones in a late-game flurry in his old stadium. Both helped the San Francisco 49ers in an improbable comeback win.
Bruce became the fifth player to reach 1,000 catches on a 3-yard touchdown grab with 4:12 to go and passed Tim Brown for second on the career yards receiving list on the 49ers' go-ahead drive.
The Rams (2-13) squandered a 10-point lead for the second straight week, failing to capitalize on four turnovers and four sacks while losing their ninth in a row.
Josh Morgan got the go-ahead score on a 48-yard reception with 1:22 to go from Shaun Hill, who struggled with three interceptions before putting it all together late.
The 49ers (6-9) forced only one turnover, but it was the clincher and gave them four victories in five games.
Bengals 14, Browns 0
CLEVELAND - As bad as they've been, the Bengals can brag they're Ohio's best NFL team. And that ain't saying much.
Cedric Benson rushed for a career-high 171 yards and Leon Hall returned one of his three interceptions 50 yards for a touchdown to help the Bengals get their first road win this season, over the hapless Browns on a bone-chilling day.
After losing their first eight games, the Bengals (3-11-1) have won two in a row for the first time since the final two games of 2007. It was their first road win since beating Miami in the finale last season, and the shutout was Cincinnati's first since blanking the Browns 30-0 on Nov. 26, 2006.
Cleveland (4-11) has lost five straight, seven of eight and hasn't scored an offensive TD since running back Jerome Harrison's 73-yard sprint on Nov. 17 at Buffalo - nearly 21 quarters ago. Cleveland didn't score a touchdown in its final three home games.
The Bengals didn't have to do anything more than hand the ball to Benson, who carried it 38 times. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was just 5-of-9 for 55 yards and a TD.
Raiders 27, Texans 17
OAKLAND, Calif. - In a season with very little to celebrate, Johnnie Lee Higgins gave Raiders fans plenty to cheer about in the home finale. Higgins caught a 29-yard touchdown pass and then returned a punt 80 yards for another score in the third quarter.
It's the first time since the 2002 Super Bowl season the Raiders won their final home game. The rest of the year has been much of the same losing for Oakland (4-11), which became the first team in NFL history to drop at least 11 games for six straight seasons.
The Texans (7-8) had won four straight for the first time in team history and were hoping for their first winning season. But Houston could generate little against the lowly Raiders.
But by beating the Texans for the first time in four tries, the Raiders are assured of not tying Tampa Bay for the most losses in any six-year period. Oakland is 23-72 since the beginning of the 2003 season.