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Sunday, 28 December 2008 12:48
NFL Headline News

 GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -The Detroit Lions own a distinction no team wants: worst in NFL history.
Facing one last chance to avoid their dubious destiny, the Lions lost Sunday's season finale to the Green Bay Packers 31-21 to complete the league's first 0-16 season. The 1976 expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-14) were the last NFL team to complete a season without a victory.
It didn't come without a fight. After falling behind 24-14 midway through the fourth quarter, Kevin Smith's 9-yard touchdown run put Detroit back within a field goal.
But Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers responded with a 71-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver and the Lions' Dan Orlovsky threw an interception on fourth-and-27 with 3 minutes left, dooming Detroit to futility of historic proportion.
he Matt Millen era. With Millen as president of the team from 2001 until he was fired on Sept. 24, Detroit won only 31 games - none this year, of course.
Indeed, the Lions haven't won since Dec. 23, 2007, when they beat Kansas City. Green Bay is where this woeful streak began at the end of last season. Since then, the Lions have lost 17 straight and have been outscored 551-281.
Coach Rod Marinelli has gone 10-38 in three seasons. His future has not been announced, but team owner William Clay Ford has decided the leaders of the front office, Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand, will be back in some capacity.
Vikings 20, Giants 19
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Ryan Longwell's 50-yard field goal as the game ended lifted the Vikings to the NFC North title for their first postseason appearance in four years.
David Carr took over at quarterback for Eli Manning after halftime and threw a touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon midway through the third quarter for a 16-10 lead. But New York (12-4), the NFC East winner with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, was on cruise control from there with a bunch of backups on the field.
The Vikings (10-6), who pulled within two points on a 54-yard touchdown pass by Tarvaris Jackson to a wide-open Bernard Berrian after third-string cornerback Terrell Thomas fell down, weren't complaining.
The Vikings crawled through a frantic, unorganized final drive and got just close enough for Longwell to kick the winner.
Derrick Ward, who fueled last week's win over Carolina with a career-high 215 yards, gave the Giants a pair of 1,000-yard rushers - only the fourth running back tandem in NFL history - by finishing with 77 yards on 15 carries. Brandon Jacobs got there earlier this month.
Panthers 33, Saints 31
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - John Kasay's 42-yard field goal with a second left locked up the NFC South title and the second seed in the conference for the Panthers (12-4).
Carolina, the only team to go 8-0 at home this season, will get a first-round playoff bye and then a chance to extend its perfect record in Charlotte in the divisional round.
Jake Delhomme was an efficient 14-of-20 for 250 yards, including his 8-yard scoring pass to Muhsin Muhammad. Kasay hit four of five field goal attempts. He connected from 45, 26 and 34 yards in the first half, but needed the winner to redeem his miss from 41 yards in the third quarter. The miss allowed the Saints (8-8) to turn a 30-10 deficit into a brief 31-30 lead after Drew Brees' 13-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore with 3:11 left.
vis' 1,444 in 2003.
Brees, meanwhile, came up just short in his bid to eclipse Dan Marino's 1984 single-season NFL record of 5,084 yards passing. Brees needed 402 yards to set the mark. He finished with 386, which made him only the second player to pass for more than 5,000 yards.
Falcons 31, Rams 27
ATLANTA (AP) - After a wild ending to their improbable regular season, the Falcons are headed to a wild-card playoff game.
Jerious Norwood ran for two touchdowns, including the go-ahead 45-yard run with 3:41 left, and the Falcons held off the Rams (2-14) to clinch the No. 5 seed in the NFC. The Falcons improved to 11-5, completing their improbable run to the playoffs after a 4-12 finish in 2007. they will travel to NFC West champion Arizona for a wild-card game next weekend.
Atlanta overcame three turnovers, including two in the fourth quarter, to give the Rams their 10th straight loss under Jim Haslett, who replaced Scott Linehan an 0-4 start.
Michael Turner fumbled into the end zone after a 70-yard run to spoil a scoring opportunity early in the final quarter. Turner had 25 carries for 208 yards and a touchdown to counter Steven Jackson's 30 carries for 161 yards and two touchdowns for St. Louis.
Texans 31, Bears 24
from postseason contention. Andre Johnson had two touchdowns for the Texans, who finished 8-8 for the second straight year.
The Bears (9-7) needed a win to keep any postseason hopes alive. The Vikings beat the Giants to take the NFC North title, but Chicago could have gotten in with a wild-card spot by winning and getting help. They blew a 10-0 lead.
The Texans were desperate for a big finale after an embarrassing loss to Oakland last week. Johnson had touchdown catches of 43 and 3 yards and rebounded from last week's two-catch performance with 10 receptions for 148 yards. It was the eighth 100-yard game of the season for the NFL's leading receiver.
Raiders 31, Buccaneers 24
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Oakland third-stringer Michael Bush rushed for a career-high 177 yards and scored on a 67-yard fourth-quarter jaunt that helped the Raiders rally to end the Buccaneers' season.
Even with a win, the Bucs (9-7) would have needed help to make the playoffs and avoid one of the biggest collapses in franchise history. They were 9-3 and tied for first heading into December but finished with four consecutive losses, two at home after going 6-0 at Raymond James Stadium.
in his job. They were 4-8 since Lane Kiffin was fired four games into the season, winding up with their most wins since going 5-11 under Norv Turner in 2004.
JaMarcus Russell threw for 148 yards and two touchdowns for the Raiders, who looked as though they were out of the game after being outgained 168-21 in the third quarter and watching Tampa Bay go up 24-14. But Oakland's young quarterback rebounded from throwing an interception that Sabby Piscitelli returned 84 yards to the Raiders 11.
Patriots 13, Bills 0
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - A nasty wind strong enough to tilt the goal posts was no match for Matt Cassel and the Patriots.
LaMont Jordan scored on a 2-yard run set up by Cassel's 12-yard completion into the wind on fourth down, and Stephen Gostkowski hit a pair of field goals.
Then came the hard part for the Patriots (11-5), who had to wait to find out whether they'd get the help required to clinch a sixth straight playoff berth. The defending AFC champions needed Miami (10-5) to lose or tie to clinch the AFC East, or Baltimore (10-5) to lose or tie to clinch a wild-card berth.
team owner Ralph Wilson.
The Patriots want to avoid becoming the first 11-5 team to miss the playoffs since Denver fell short in 1985.
It won't be for lack of trying for a Patriots team that closed its season with four straight wins, and continued to show reslience despite 14 players on injured reserve, including Tom Brady. Rather, New England continued its December dominance, winning its 12th straight game in the month, and extending its win streak over the Bills to 11.
Steelers 31, Browns 0
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Ben Roethlisberger gave the playoff-bound Steelers a major scare by sustaining a concussion during an essentially meaningless victory over the embarrassed Browns that likely was Romeo Crennel's last as Cleveland's coach.
Roethlisberger, expected to play a half to stay sharp before a two-week break, lay on the turf for nearly 15 minutes after being leveled by Willie McGinest and D'Qwell Jackson while delivering a pass late in the second quarter.
Despite the long delay, Roethlisberger's teammates did not react as if he had been seriously hurt and the quarterback flashed a thumbs-up while being driven off the field. Unless follow-up tests unexpectedly reveal additional problems, the injury probably won't sideline Roethlisberger for the No. 2-seeded Steelers' AFC playoff game Jan. 10 or 11.
Browns (4-12), it wasn't supposed to end this way in a season that began with so much hope after they went 10-6 in 2007, causing owner Randy Lerner to give Crennel a $12 million extension through 2011. Lerner will meet with Crennel in Cleveland on Monday, almost certainly to fire him, and general manager Phil Savage's fate is equally cloudy.
Crennel is the only full-time coach in Browns history to never beat Pittsburgh. The Browns didn't score a touchdown on offense while losing their final six, setting an NFL record by going 24 consecutive quarters without an offensive touchdown. The 1974 Bears' streak lasted 22 quarters.
Colts 23, Titans 0
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indianapolis got those pesky milestones out of the way quickly, yanked its starters early and still managed to win its ninth straight, beating AFC South champion. It marked the sixth straight season Indy has won at least 12 games, and that wasn't the only big achievement for the Colts.
Peyton Manning hit 4,000 yards for a ninth straight season, three more than Dan Marino's previous NFL mark. Marvin Harrison moved into second place on the all-time receptions list, and Dallas Clark broke John Mackey's single-season franchise record for most yards receiving by a tight end, a mark that had stood since 1966.
up for next week's first-round playoff game at either Denver or San Diego.
The Titans (13-3) took a similar approach by using most starters sparingly after locking up the AFC's No. 1 seed. They were held to only one first down in the first half, and Indy got its first shutout since Dec. 14, 1997.
The Colts needed only 23 minutes to complete the milestone trifecta, and Manning finished 7-of-7 for 95 yards with one touchdown and a perfect rating of 158.3.
Bengals 16, Chiefs 6
CINCINNATI (AP) - Cedric Benson ran for 111 yards and a touchdown, putting a little bite into the Bengals' depleted offense, and Cincinnati completed its late-season surge.
The Bengals (4-11-1) will most likely stay the course after their latest losing season. Coach Marvin Lewis has two years left on his contract, and there is no general manager to replace - owner Mike Brown makes the important decisions.
Cincinnati closed out the season with three straight wins, two of them against teams that seemed to care less than they did. They shut out the Browns 14-0 and had little trouble with the lackluster Chiefs, who crossed midfield only once in the first three quarters.
into a rebuilding mode. His rookie-filled team has lost 23 of its past 25 games, and has at least one major change ahead.
General manager Carl Peterson is leaving after 20 years with Kansas City. His successor will have a say in whether they replace Edwards, who insists that the Chiefs' future isn't as glum as it looks.
 

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