Tue, Dec 30, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Miracle throws Packers into playoffs

LAST GASP The Packers were down and out with two minutes to go in the Vikings' match against the Cardinals, but a late, late Arizona rally had Green Bay celebrating

AP , TEMPE, ARIZONA

Quarterback Josh McCown of the Arizona Cardinals throws the game winning touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.

PHOTO: AFP

Arizona knocked the Minnesota Vikings out of the playoffs on Sunday with a fourth-down miracle that put the Green Bay Packers in.

Josh McCown threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Poole on fourth-and-25 as time expired, rallying the Cardinals to an 18-17 victory. That left the Vikings at 9-7 and gave the division title to the Packers, who beat Denver 31-3.

Had the Vikings won, Green Bay (10-6) would have been eliminated on a series of complicated tiebreakers.

Poole caught the ball near the sideline in the end zone, where officials ruled he was forced out by Minnesota's Denard Walker and called it a touchdown. A video review upheld the call.

Minnesota led 17-6 with two minutes left.

But Arizona (4-12) cut the lead to 17-12 on McCown's fourth-down 2-yard pass to Steve Bush with 1:54 to play.

Damien Anderson recovered the onside kick for Arizona, and a 30-yard pass-interference call against Walker put the Cardinals in scoring position.

Packers 31, Broncos 3

The biggest cheer at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, came for the play in Arizona that got the Packers into the playoffs.

Ahman Green reeled off a 98-yard touchdown run and Brett Favre completed a hard week in which he buried his father to lead Green Bay.

The Packers (10-6) had little hope of playing into January only minutes earlier. They celebrated wildly on the sideline after their crowd, listening on radios, broke into frenzied elation over the fourth-down pass in Arizona.

Denver (10-6) rested starters for its playoff game next Sunday in Indianapolis.

The Packers will host the Seattle Seahawks (10-6) and former coach Mike Holmgren on Sunday. The Packers beat the Seahawks 35-13 at home on Oct. 5.

Green set a franchise record with 218 yards rushing and ran for two scores, giving him 20 and breaking Jim Taylor's record of 19 set in 1962.

Ravens 13, Steelers 10, OT

In Baltimore, Jamal Lewis became the fifth player ever to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season, but fell 39 yards of Eric Dickerson's 19-year-old record of 2,105.

Matt Stover's 47-yard field goal 3:28 into overtime gave the win to the Ravens (10-6.) They clinched the AFC North earlier in the day when Cincinnati lost to Cleveland.

Lewis finished with 114 yards on 27 carries. Jerome Bettis of Pittsburgh (6-10) ran for 54 yards to move pass Jim Brown into sixth place on the career list with 12,353.

Browns 22, Bengals 14

In Cincinnati, rookie Lee Suggs ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns Sunday as Cleveland knocked Cincinnati from playoff contention by beating the Bengals 22-14.

That allowed the Baltimore Ravens to clinch the AFC North title several hours before playing Pittsburgh in the final regular-season game.

A renaissance season ended in a gut-wrenching disappointment for the Bengals (8-8), who reverted to form in their biggest game in 13 years against a Cleveland team that finished 5-11.

With a chance to stay in contention for at least a few more hours and clinch their first winning record since 1990, Cincinnati fell down. The largest crowd for a Bengals game in Cincinnati filed out silently after Jon Kitna's final pass was intercepted by Robert Griffith with 41 seconds left.

Saints 13, Cowboys 7

In New Orleans, Donte' Stallworth's 76-yard touchdown reception sent Dallas into the playoffs on a down note.

The Saints (8-8), who will miss the playoffs for the third straight year, responded to a tongue-lashing from owner Tom Benson and a team meeting Friday night.

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