St Louis on rampage and Colts race to title

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The Independent Online

The Indianapolis Colts and St Louis Rams were the big winners in Week 15 of the NFL while the high-flying Tampa Bay Buccaneers crashed to a 45-0 humiliation at Oakland.

The Indianapolis Colts and St Louis Rams were the big winners in Week 15 of the NFL while the high-flying Tampa Bay Buccaneers crashed to a 45-0 humiliation at Oakland.

Indianapolis clinched the AFC East title - their first in 12 years - with a narrow 24-21 home victory over the Washington Redskins as second-year quarterback Peyton Manning, son of former NFL star Archie Manning, threw a pair of touchdown passes.

Rookie running back Edgerrin James caught one of those scoring tosses and also ran for a touchdown.

Washington still lead the NFC East by a game over Dallas and the New York Giants - both losers yesterday. The Skins had a chance to pull level at the end after scoring a touchdown but failed to get into field goal range after recovering an onsides kick.

St Louis quarterback Kurt Warner threw two touchdown passes and the Rams intercepted Giants quarterback Kerry Collins twice and returned them for scores as Dick Vermeil's men strolled to a 31-10 win.

Napoleon Kaufman and Tyrone Wheatley each ran for more than 100 yards and two touchdowns as the Oakland Raiders shot holes in the usually stingy Tampa Bay rush defence.

"They had our number, it's as simple as that," said Bucs defensive end Chidi Ahanotu. "We have to learn from it, but we can't forget we're still in this. We're still in first place in the division."

Tampa Bay, who have nine wins, still lead the NFC Central and can clinch a play-off place win a home win over Green Bay next week.

The New England Patriots bowed out of play-off contention in the AFC with a 24-9 defeat against lowly Philadelphia.

"I'm sick about what we did," said embattled New England coach Pete Carroll, whose team began the season with six wins in their first eight games but are now 7-7.

"I couldn't imagine we would do what we did...that's about as ugly a performance as you can imagine."

The Tennessee Titans clinched a play-off berth with a 30-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons as quarterback Steve McNair ran for a score and also threw a touchdown pass.

AFC Central leaders Jacksonville, who play at Tennessee next week, beat Cleveland 24-14 for their 13th triumph of the campaign to stay on course for homefield advantage in the conference play-offs.

Running back Fred Taylor, with starter James Stewart missing the game through injury, rushed for 136 yards - including a 41-yard scoring romp in the fourth quarter.

The Seattle Seahawks' alarming slide down the table continued with a 36-30 overtime defeat in Denver - their fourth straight loss.

Seahawks quarterback Jon Kitna coughed up the ball after being hit by defender Ray Crockett on a Broncos blitz in the extra period. Denver recovered the ball and returned it 37 yards for the winning points.

Seattle, stuck on eight wins, now trail Kansas City - 35-19 winners over Pittsburgh on Saturday - by a game in the AFC West. The two teams meet next week at the Kingdome.

The Detroit Lions failed to clinch their play-off place with a 28-10 capitulation at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears.

Ray Lucas threw two touchdown passes and John Hall kicked a 37-yard field goal in the final minutes as the New York Jets beat Dallas 22-21 - hurting the Cowboys' play-off hopes.

Dallas need to win their remaining two games to have a realistic chance of making the play-offs.

The Buffalo Bills won at Arizona 31-21 as Doug Flutie threw a couple of scoring strikes and Henry Jones returned an onsides kick 37 yards for a score.

Miami, battling Buffalo for one of the AFC wild-cards, also grabbed their ninth win as Olindo Mare kicked four field goals in a 12-9 victory over San Diego.

The Baltimore Ravens piled more misery on New Orleans with a 31-8 thrashing of the Saints.

Carolina, who have a slim chance of grabbing an NFC wild-card if they win their last two games, beat San Francisco 41-24 on Saturday.