Reduced to the role of spoiler, the Denver Broncos played the part perfectly, with plenty of drama at the end.
Withstanding a Seattle Seahawks rally that produced a tie in regulation, the Broncos prevailed, 36-30, in Denver on linebacker Glenn Cadrez's 37-yard fumble return 2 minutes 43 seconds into overtime yesterday.
On third and four from the Denver 47-yard line, cornerback Ray Crockett blitzed Seattle quarterback Jon Kitna, sacking Kitna and forcing a fumble that Cadrez scooped up for the winning score.
With the win, the Broncos (5-9) damaged the playoff hopes of the Seahawks (8-6), who suffered their fourth straight loss. Seattle fell one game behind Kansas City in the AFC West with two games remaining; the Seahawks and Chiefs play next weekend.
"It's a very, very tough pill to swallow," Seattle Coach Mike Holmgren said. "I don't know where [Crockett] came from or what happened. I know they hit it just right and Jon was not looking in that direction. The season is not over, but bouncing back from a loss like this is a challenge."
Kitna called it "the hardest way to lose. I was just getting ready to throw to Mike Pritchard when I got hit. Obviously, I didn't see" Crockett.
Rookie Olandis Gary (Riverdale Baptist High) ran for a career-high 183 yards, including a 71-yard romp with three minutes left that helped the Broncos take a seemingly secure 30-20 lead with 1:47 left in regulation.
DOLPHINS 12, CHARGERS 9: John Carney missed a 36-yard field goal attempt with five seconds remaining for San Diego when the kick hit the left upright, and the host Dolphins broke a three-game losing streak.
The Dolphins (9-5) won thanks to stout defense and Olindo Mare, who kicked four field goals. The loss, combined with Buffalo's victory over Arizona, eliminated San Diego (6-8) from playoff contention.
EAGLES 24, PATRIOTS 9: Koy Detmer, filling in well for injured starter Donovan McNabb and backup Doug Pederson, threw a career-high three touchdown passes for host Philadelphia (4-11), and New England (7-7) was eliminated from playoff contention.
Drew Bledsoe threw four interceptions, was sacked six times and lost one of three fumbles for the Patriots, who lost for the fifth time in six games.
JAGUARS 24, BROWNS 14: Fred Taylor rushed for 136 yards and broke off a 41-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter for visiting Jacksonville (13-1).
After Browns quarterback Tim Couch injured his left ankle in the first half, Cleveland (2-13) rallied in the second half behind backup Ty Detmer, who threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to rookie Darrin Chiaverini to make it 17-14.