- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2003

From combined dispatches

Green Bay got the last NFL playoff spot thanks to Arizonas wild comeback victory over Minnesota yesterday, while Seattle and Baltimore took the other spots still open.

Josh McCown threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Poole on fourth-and-25 as time expired to rally the Cardinals to an 18-17 victory over the Vikings.

“You dont have any clue how much it hurts,” Minnesotas Corey Chavous said.

That kept Minnesota out of the playoffs at 9-7 after a 6-0 start and gave the NFC North title to Green Bay (10-6). The Packers beat Denver 31-3 and will play host to Seattle (10-6) Sunday.

The Packers and the crowd at Lambeau Field learned of Green Bays improbable NFC North title when the Vikings loss was announced at the 2-minute warning.

“Ive never heard a crowd cheer that loud for a 2-minute warning before,” linebacker Nick Barnett said.

The Packers, who had little hope of playing into January only moments earlier, celebrated wildly on the sideline after their crowd, listening on radios, broke into frenzied elation over the fourth-down miracle.

Earlier, Seattle and Baltimore secured berths. Indianapolis won the AFC South, and Philadelphia (12-4) regained home-field advantage from St. Louis in the NFC when the Rams (12-4) lost in Detroit 30-20.

The Ravens (10-6) won the AFC North when Cincinnati (8-8) lost to Cleveland 22-14.

“We pressed,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “Thats a growth that we have to go through. Dont get frustrated about this and that, just keep playing.

“This was a good year. It wasnt a great year. Weve got more to do.”

Baltimore plays host to Tennessee (12-4) Saturday in a wild-card round game.

Seattle made it as the fifth seed in the NFC, dropping Dallas (10-6) to sixth in a complicated BCS-like “strength of victory” tiebreaker. The Cowboys lost in New Orleans 13-7. They play at Carolina on Saturday night.

The Seahawks beat San Francisco 24-17 on Saturday.

“This is something weve worked for since August,” Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “Its great that all of our hard work has paid off. Now we need to take care of business. We have a great opportunity and were excited.”

Indianapolis, meanwhile, won the AFC South with a 20-17 win in Houston on Mike Vanderjagts 43-yard field goal at the end of regulation. It also gave him a league record of 41 straight field goals without a miss. That left Tennessee as a wild-card team.

Indianapolis (12-4) plays host to Denver next Sunday.

St. Louis loss in Detroit dropped it to second in the NFC behind Philadelphia, which won in Washington 31-7 Saturday night. The Eagles get the home-field advantage because their NFC record is 9-3 compared to 8-4 for the Rams.

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