Peyton Manning ended Cleveland's comeback season with yet another comeback of his own.
Manning rallied Indianapolis in the fourth quarter yesterday, setting up Mike Vanderjagt's 21-yard field goal with four seconds left that gave the Colts a 29-28 win over the Browns in Cleveland.
Edgerrin James scored three touchdowns and rushed for 103 yards for the Colts (13-2), who trailed by nine points at the start of the fourth before Manning led them to their 11th straight win.
Although he didn't throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 28 games, Manning added a sixth fourth-quarter rally to his 1999 Pro Bowl season resume. He finished 28 of 44 for 283 yards--10 of 11 on two fourth-quarter scoring drives--and picked up a pair of key first downs on scrambles.
"He's the real deal," Browns safety Marlon Forbes said. "Real poised."
Meantime, the expansion Browns (2-14) finished their first season back in the league since 1995 with the worst record in Cleveland history. About the only consolation was that by losing yesterday, they locked up the No. 1 overall pick in next year's college draft.
Marvin Harrison set a team record with 14 receptions for 138 yards as the Colts remained in contention for home field throughout the AFC playoffs. Indianapolis went 3-13 in '98 and entered the game tied with 1929 New York Giants and '63 Oakland Raiders with a nine-game victory turnaround.
"It definitely was a complete turnaround," Harrison said. "Everybody put in a lot of hard work, and it was sure a lot better to be on this side of things this year."
BILLS 13, PATRIOTS 10: The wind was whipping, the seconds were ticking and Doug Flutie was clicking.
He completed his last 12 passes, New England's Adam Vinatieri missed two late field goal attempts into a brisk breeze and the visiting Buffalo Bills inched closer to the playoffs with an overtime win.
Flutie will have to wait a bit longer to find out if the Bills (10-5) will make the playoffs. Because Seattle beat Kansas City, the Bills now need the Miami Dolphins to lose to the New York Jets tonight to clinch a berth.
The first three quarters were unsightly as both teams struggled to move the ball and managed just two field goals between them--Christie's 39-yarder with four minutes left in the first quarter and Vinatieri's 38-yarder on the last play of the second.
Then the Patriots (7-8) went ahead 10-3 on Terry Allen's 14-yard run with 12 minutes 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter after Chad Eaton's 30-yard return of Jonathan Linton's fumble. It was their first touchdown in eight quarters.
But the Bills tied the game on Linton's one-yard run with 4:23 left in regulation.
RAMS 34, BEARS 12: Kurt Warner tied a record with his ninth 300-yard passing game as NFC West champion St. Louis beat visiting Chicago.
The Rams (13-2) ran out of season-oriented incentives last week when they clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. That didn't stop them from eliminating the Bears (6-9) from playoff contention, with Marshall Faulk piling up 222 total yards on 20 touches in the first half alone.
Warner got the Rams rolling after their second scoreless first quarter of the season and was 24 for 35 for 334 yards and three touchdowns in 2 1/2 quarters. Faulk, Roland Williams and Isaac Bruce each caught one touchdown pass.
Warner has 39 touchdown passes, tied with Brett Favre (1996) for third on the single-season list, and can become only the third quarterback to throw 40. In his first season as a starter, his nine 300-yard passing games tie him for the NFL record with Dan Marino (1984) and Warren Moon (1990).
FALCONS 37, CARDINALS 14: Atlanta went from champion to spoiler. Long ago eliminated from the postseason, Atlanta took out another of last season's playoff teams with a home win over Arizona.
Atlanta (4-11), the defending NFC champion but enduring a dismal season, pulled away with a tedious touchdown drive that consumed more than 10 minutes of the third quarter. Bob Christian sealed the victory with his second touchdown of the game, a career-best 33-yard run in the final period.
CHARGERS 23, RAIDERS 20: After having its playoff hopes ended by the Bills, Oakland had the rest of its day wrecked by San Diego.
San Diego rallied to score 10 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Raiders in San Diego, with the winning points coming on John Carney's 37-yard field goal with 8:09 remaining. It was Carney's third field goal of the game and gave him 1,001 points in his 11-year career.