Marc Bulger threw for 450 yards and three touchdowns and Jeff Wilkins kicked a 31-yard field goal with 3:03 left in overtime Sunday to give the St. Louis Rams a 32-29 victory over the New York Jets, clinching their National Football League fourth playoff berth in five seasons under coach Mike Martz.
The Rams (8-8) won their last two games to qualify as the NFC wild card, and had a chance to win the West if the Seattle Seahawks lost to the Atlanta Falcons later Sunday.
Their effort took on more meaning when the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Washington Redskins, a result that meant the Rams had to win to make it into the postseason. The Jets (10-6) qualified before overtime began when the Buffalo Bills lost 29-24 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Despite the loss, New York made the playoffs for the third time in four seasons under coach Herman Edwards. The Jets play at San Diego next weekend, but enter the playoffs on a downer. They have gone 5-6 in their final 11 games following a 5-0 start, and lost three of their last four.
Redskins 21, Vikings 18
In Landover, Maryland, despite the loss, the Vikings qualified for the playoffs when the New Orleans Saints beat the Carolina Panthers.
The Vikings (8-8) lost seven of their last 10 games after a 5-1 start. Last year, they fell from 6-0 to 9-7 and were eliminated by a touchdown pass on the last play of the season at Arizona.
The Redskins (6-10) gave a spirited finish to Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs' disappointing comeback season, his worst in 13 years with the Redskins. The defense rattled Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper with four sacks, and Ladell Betts ran 26 times for a career-high 118 yards subbing for injured Clinton Portis.
Saints 21, Panthers 18
In Charlotte, North Carolina, the Saints (8-8) forced three turnovers and had six sacks but still missed the playoffs.
Aaron Brooks passed for 216 yards and threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Joe Horn.
The win was New Orleans' fourth straight, capped an impressive turnaround for the Saints and might have saved coach Jim Haslett's job.
Steelers 29, Bills 24
In Orchard Park, New York, fourth-string running back Willie Parker had 102 yards rushing and backup linebacker James Harrison returned a fumble 18 yards for a touchdown, knocking Buffalo out of playoff contention.
The Steelers won their 14th straight to match the record set by Miami in 1972 and became just the fourth team in NFL history to finish 15-1.
Ravens 30, Dolphins 23
In Baltimore, after the early games, Baltimore was alive for the playoffs, but needed late losses by Denver and Jacksonville to get in. Jamal Lewis scored a touchdown and ran for 167 yards, as Baltimore (9-7), built a 27-7 lead, then held on.
Baltimore's Jarret Johnson returned an interception for a score and teammate Ed Reed got his ninth interception and returned it 41 yards to get an NFL record for return yardage in a season (358).
Patriots 21, 49ers 7
In Foxboro, Massachusetts, New England, a franchise-best 14-2 for the second straight season, got Tom Brady's two TD passes after he threw an interception and lost a fumble.
Corey Dillon ran for 116 yards and one touchdown, but also lost a fumble. And the Patriots' regular-season record of scoring first in 20 straight games ended on Ken Dorsey's 4-yard pass to third-string tight end Steve Bush late in the first quarter.