HOUSTON – Ron Dayne had a career-high 153 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and Kris Brown kicked the winning 48-yard field goal as time expired, giving Houston its first win over Indianapolis by a 27-24 score Sunday.

The loss denied the AFC South champions the chance to clinch a first-round playoff bye.

It was the first time Dayne had gained 100 yards since September 2001 with the Giants.

The Texans (5-10) used Dayne and rookie Chris Taylor to eat up the clock and exploit the Colts’ suspect run defense, ranked last in the NFL, and broke a nine-game losing streak to Indianapolis (11-4).

Dayne had 429 yards rushing and five touchdowns in the past four games.

Houston led through most of the game, until Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison connected for their second touchdown, this one a 7-yard pass that tied it 24-24 with 2:41 remaining.

David Carr and the Texans then engineered a six-play, 31-yard drive that ended with Brown’s winning kick. Carr was 16-of-23 for 163 yards and a touchdown.

The loss ruined another record day for Manning, who set an NFL mark by reaching 4,000 yards passing for the seventh time in his nine-year career. He was 21-of-27 for 205 yards and had three touchdown passes.

Patriots 24, Jaguars 21

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tom Brady and the New England Patriots may have knocked Jacksonville out of the playoffs for the second consecutive season – while clinching their own division title.

Brady directed three long touchdown drives, capped one with a perfect touch pass to David Thomas, and helped the Patriots clinch their fourth consecutive AFC East crown.

New England (11-4) also crippled Jacksonville’s postseason chances. The Jaguars (8-7) need to win at Kansas City next week and get lots of help to return to the playoffs as a wild card.

Laurence Maroney, who missed the previous two games with torn rib cartilage, had a 27-yard touchdown run with 4:36 remaining to put the Patriots ahead 24-14.

Brady had 31 yards rushing, but was at his best in the pocket, completing passes to 10 receivers and picking apart the NFL’s second-ranked defense. He finished 28-of-39 for 249 yards.

Maurice Drew, starting in place of Fred Taylor (hamstring), had a 74-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that put the Jaguars ahead 7-3.

Drew scored again in the third quarter, a 1-yard plunge that cut the lead to 17-14. He finished with 131 yards rushing and 41 yards receiving.

Ravens 31, Steelers 7

PITTSBURGH – Steve McNair threw three touchdown passes and Baltimore moved ahead in the race for a first-round AFC playoffs bye. They shut down Pittsburgh for the second time in a month and eliminated the defending Super Bowl champions from playoff contention.

The Ravens (12-3) matched a franchise record for victories in a season set by their Super Bowl championship team in 2000 and swept the season series from the despised Steelers (7-8) for the first time since the former Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996. They also won in Heinz Field for the first time since their initial game there in 2001.

With Ben Roethlisberger (156 yards passing, 2 interceptions) and Willie Parker (29 yards on 13 carries) again having rough afternoons against one of the NFL’s top defenses, the Steelers (7-8) became the first Super Bowl champions since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002 to miss the playoffs the following season.

They tried to rally by winning five of six following a 2-6 start, but now can finish no better than 8-8.

McNair was 21-of-31 for 256 yards and two interceptions.

Titans 30, Bills 29

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Vince Young threw two touchdown passes and rushed for another, keeping Tennessee’s playoff hopes alive with a win over Buffalo.

Young also engineered his fourth comeback in the fourth quarter or overtime, rallying Tennessee from a 29-20 deficit. After hitting Brandon Jones for a 29-yard touchdown pass, Young engineered a 14-play, 75-yard drive, which Rob Bironas capped with a 30-yard field goal with 2:10 left.

The Bills (7-8) had their postseason hopes end as they were unable to complete a last-minute scoring drive.

Facing fourth-and-5 at the Titans 28, J.P. Losman scrambled out of trouble and threw a desperation pass that was intercepted by Reynaldo Hill at the goal line. The Bills elected against a field goal, as they were driving into a wind that was gusting up to 20 mph.

Panthers 10, Falcons 3

ATLANTA – Carolina snapped a four-game losing streak and all but ended Atlanta’s playoff hopes by shutting down the NFL’s top running attack.

The Falcons, who lead the league with 193 yards rushing per game, were outrushed 183-83 by a balanced Carolina attack that helped fill-in quarterback Chris Weinke snap a 17-game losing streak as a starter.

Weinke, who had been 1-17, won for the first time since his 2001 rookie season. The 17-game losing streak is the second-longest in NFL history, behind only the Oilers’ Dan Pastorini – who dropped 21 straight from 1972-74.

Saints 30, Giants 7

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Reggie Bush ran for a career-best 126 yards and a touchdown, and New Orleans limited New York to six first downs and 142 yards.

Unbelievably, the Giants (7-8), who didn’t have a snap in Saints’ territory, remain in the playoff hunt despite losing for the sixth time in seven games. The sellout crowd was so upset with the performance that twice it chanted “Fire Coughlin” toward coach Tom Coughlin before heading for the exits.

Drew Brees threw a go-ahead 2-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston late in the first half to give New Orleans a 13-7 halftime lead. Bush added a little insurance with a 1-yard TD run on an end around in the third quarter and Deuce McAllister, who rushed for 108 yards, scored on a 9-yard run early in the fourth quarter.

New York’s Plaxico Burress caught a 55-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning on the opening series. Retiring halfback Tiki Barber gained 71 yards on 16 carries in his final regular-season home game.

Rams 37, Redskins 31, OT

ST. LOUIS – Steven Jackson wrapped up a big day with a 21-yard touchdown run in overtime and Marc Bulger tied his career best with four touchdown passes in a victory over Washington.

The Rams (7-8) rallied on the day the team’s 95-game streak of regular-season sellouts ended. The franchise also had five playoff sellouts during the run that began in 1995 when it moved from Los Angeles, and it ended with an attendance of 62,324 – more than 3,000 shy of capacity.

Ladell Betts tied a franchise record with his fifth straight 100-yard rushing game for the Redskins (5-10), and topped 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career.

Bears 26, Lions 21

DETROIT – Backup quarterback Brian Griese directed a 72-yard drive that set up Robbie Gould’s field goal midway through the fourth quarter, helping Chicago beat Detroit.

Gould’s fourth field goal – after Jon Kitna made his NFL-high 30th turnover – gave Chicago a six-point cushion with 2:50 to go after to end a drive that starting QB Rex Grossman watched from the sideline.

With a chance for a winning touchdown, the Lions drove to the Chicago 22. Kitna threw a pass into the end zone on the final play that leaping wide receiver Mike Williams got his hands on, but couldn’t control.

Both teams met without much on the line because the Bears (13-2) clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs last week and Detroit (2-13) has been relegated to playing for pride since midseason.

Buccaneers 22, Browns 7

CLEVELAND – Derrick Brooks returned one of Tampa Bay’s four interceptions 21 yards for a touchdown and Tampa Bay won its first road game in more than a year.

The Buccaneers (4-11) had lost eight straight outside Florida since winning at Carolina on Dec. 11 last season. But they had little trouble with the Browns (4-11), who lost their third straight, managed just 187 yards of offense and were taunted by their own fans.

Cleveland avoided being shut out for the second straight year on Dec. 24 when cornerback Daven Holly returned a fumble 40 yards for a TD with 11:33 left.

Michael Pittman, filling in for injured starter Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, had an 11-yard touchdown run and Jermaine Phillips had two of Tampa Bay’s four picks against Derek Anderson.

Tim Rattay made his first start at quarterback for Tampa Bay and finished 16-of-26 for 212 yards.

Broncos 24, Bengals 23

DENVER – Cincinnati lost on a snowy day when Brad St. Louis’ long snap on an extra point in the final minute sailed wide of holder Kyle Larson.

That was enough to hand a win to Denver (9-6), which can clinch a playoff spot with a win next week against San Francisco.

Needing only to beat the Broncos to get into the postseason, the Bengals (8-7) drove 90 yards in 12 plays, with Carson Palmer tossing a 10-yard touchdown strike to T.J. Houshmandzadeh with 46 seconds left.

Then came the wide and wobbly snap that doomed the Bengals.

The Broncos – who ended a three-game losing streak at home – got four takeaways, two from Champ Bailey, who recorded his NFL-high ninth interception and recovered Chad Johnson’s first career fumble.

Cardinals 26, 49ers 20

SAN FRANCISCO – Matt Leinart passed for 162 yards before spraining his left shoulder in the first half, and Kurt Warner finished up with 105 yards passing in Arizona’s fourth victory in six games that eliminated San Francisco from postseason contention.

Edgerrin James had 105 yards to become Arizona’s first 1,000-yard rusher in eight years, and Marcel Shipp ran for a score as the Cardinals (5-10) jumped to an early 20-3 lead, then held on for their fourth straight win over the 49ers (6-9). Arizona is a division-best 4-2 against NFC West opponents during its eighth consecutive losing season.

Leinart was injured when Roderick Green sacked him shortly before halftime, and the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner won’t play next week in the Cardinals’ finale.

Alex Smith passed for 190 yards, and Frank Gore’s second touchdown run with 5:00 to play cut Arizona’s lead to six points. But the 49ers couldn’t get the ball back after two earlier fourth-quarter drives ended in turnovers.

Chargers 20, Seahawks 17

SEATTLE – Philip Rivers, who missed on 22 of his first 28 passes, found Vincent Jackson alone in the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown pass with 29 seconds left to lift San Diego over stunned Seattle.

But Arizona’s upset at San Francisco minutes earlier meant Seattle (8-7) clinched its third consecutive NFC West title despite its third straight loss.

San Diego (13-2), the AFC West champion, clinched a first-round bye and will need to beat the Cardinals to ensure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Shaun Alexander ran for 140 yards and both Seattle touchdowns to rally the Seahawks from a 10-0 deficit in the second half.

His spinning, 9-yard score put the Seahawks up 14-13 with 13 minutes left.

But then Rivers got going. He completed two throws for 24 yards before Jackson made his second touchdown catch of the game.


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