Nick Lowery's 32-yard field goal with 2:46 remaining yesterday in San Diego gave the Chiefs a 24-21 victory over the Chargers and put Kansas City in the playoffs for the first time since 1986.

The Chiefs improved to 10-5 and could win the AFC West, on a tiebreaker, if they win next week and the Raiders lose.

Kansas City began the winning drive inches from its own goal line after Sammy Lilly downed a punt inside the 1. Two plays gained four yards before Steve DeBerg tossed a short pass to Todd McNair, who broke loose for a 65-yard gain to the Chargers 30.

San Diego (6-9) had one last chance but its final possession ended when Deron Cherry intercepted Billy Joe Tolliver for the second time. Kansas City took over at its own 45 and ran out the final 1:48.

DeBerg, playing with a cast to protect a fractured finger on his left hand that was operated on earlier this week, completed 19 of 27 passes for 251 yards. He threw for two touchdowns and was not intercepted.

The Chiefs' Barry Word ran 28 times for 106 yards and a touchdown.

Seahawks 17, Broncos 12: Seattle (8-7) stayed alive in the AFC wild-card race as an apparent 51-yard desperation touchdown pass by Denver's John Elway to Michael Young on the final play in the Kingdome was nullified by an illegal motion penalty.

A one-yard touchdown run by Derrick Fenner with 11 seconds left in the third period had given Seattle the lead.

The Broncos (4-11) took a 12-10 lead earlier in the period when Seattle quarterback Dave Krieg was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, which is a safety.

Falcons 20, Rams 13: Cornerback Scott Case's 36-yard interception return for a touchdown in the opening two minutes helped quarterback Hugh Millen win his first NFL game -- against the team that originally drafted him -- as host Atlanta snapped a seven-game losing streak.

The loss was the third straight for the Rams (5-10), who were expected to challenge for the NFC West title this season. This is their first 10-loss season since finishing 6-10 in 1981, and if they lose to the Saints next week, it will be their first 11-loss season since they went 1-12-1 in 1962.

Millen, third on the depth chart at the start of the season, got his second NFL start in four seasons because of injuries that sidelined starter Chris Miller and No. 1 backup Scott Campbell. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 178 yards.

"We did it with spit and glue and it was unbelievable," said Atlanta Coach Jerry Glanville, whose team improved to 4-11.

Jets 42, Patriots 7: In losing their club-record 13th straight game, New England finally came away a winner in this dismal season -- it clinched the No. 1 draft pick in next spring's college draft.

In East Rutherford, N.J., Freeman McNeil ran for two touchdowns and Ken O'Brien threw for two as the Jets ended their five-game losing streak.

At 1-14, the Patriots will finish with their worst season in franchise history if they lose to the NFC East-champion Giants next week.

"I'm not going to cry; I'm not going to give a speech," Patriots Coach Rod Rust said. "We just didn't get the job done.

New England starting quarterback Tommy Hodson sprained his left ankle on the fourth play of a first-quarter drive and was replaced by Marc Wilson.