American Football: Chiefs scoop last wild card after rivals forfeit chances

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The Independent Online

New Year's Eve celebrations were doubtless long and loud in Kansas City on Sunday night, when the Chiefs claimed the last wild card berth in the most unlikely of circumstances as the NFL regular season drew to an extraordinary end.

In order to qualify for post-season play, the Chiefs needed to defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars at home, then hope that Tennessee, Cincinnati and Denver all lost. The easy part was beating the slumping Jaguars. Larry Johnson rushed for three touchdowns as the Chiefs prevailed 35-30.

Then New England defeated Tennessee 40-23. Hopes were dashed when the Cincinnati Bengals had a late chance to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Cincinnati's Shayne Graham missed a 39-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining, and the Steelers won 23-17 in overtime.

Denver then kicked off their home affair with struggling San Francisco and built a 13-0 lead. Chiefs players partied as their fate hung in the balance. Their head coach, Herm Edwards, went home to see his daughter, while his wife, Lia, watched the drama on TV.

San Francisco fought back to take the lead, only for Denver to respond and take it to overtime. Joe Nedney converted a field goal to give the 49ers a shock 26-23 result. "When I heard my wife scream, I knew something good had happened," Edwards said.

The Denver cornerback Darrent Williams was killed early yesterday in a drive-by shooting in Denver. Williams, 24, had just completed his second season with Denver after an outstanding college career at Oklahoma State.

Dennis Green was sacked as coach of the Arizona Cardinals yesterday after they concluded a 5-11 season with a 27-20 defeat at San Diego.

The Atlanta Falcons fired head coach Jim Mora after another poor season. Atlanta finished a 7-9 season on Sunday with a 24-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and missed the play-offs after finishing third in the NFC South. They lost seven of their last nine games.

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