American Football: Wilkins converts to thwart Saints

Some teams won and didn't make it, while others lost and qualified in a typically chaotic climax to the regular season as the battle for play-off positions reached its conclusion in the NFL on Sunday night.

The New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers faced each other, knowing that victory, while essential, still might not be sufficient for post-season participation. The Saints hung on for a 21-18 verdict, then went to their locker-room to watch the conclusion of hostilities between the St Louis Rams and the New York Jets.

A win for the Jets, and the Saints would be through. Victory for St Louis, however, would see the Rams home at the expense of New Orleans. Nerves were stretched in both camps as New York's kicker Doug Brien, formerly of the Saints, converted a 27-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. Brien then had a chance to win it for the Jets, but his 53-yard effort sailed wide. That gave the Rams hope, and they duly clinched their place, at the expense of New Orleans, when Jeff Wilkins converted a 31-yard kick.

The Saints, winners of four in a row, had left their challenge too late after a slow start to the season. "We know we have a good football team. It showed these last four weeks," said their receiver, Joe Horn. "We should have done it earlier, then we wouldn't have had to watch that screen to see if another team loses or wins for us to get in."

The Jets also edged into the post-season because the Buffalo Bills failed to beat a below-strength Pittsburgh Steelers, while the Denver Broncos also qualified after proving too good for an Indianapolis Colts side who, like Pittsburgh, were resting key players.

The New Yorkers have another reason to celebrate as their running back Curtis Martin finished as the season's leading rusher with 1,697 yards, beating Seattle's Shaun Alexander by a single yard.

Also through, despite an alarming slump, are the Minnesota Vikings, who bizarrely qualified because Carolina lost to New Orleans, thus rendering their own 21-18 reverse in Washington meaningless.

The Vikings are a team in turmoil, having lost seven of their last 10 matches. Even before the finish in Washington, their top receiver Randy Moss left the sidelines for the locker-room, symbolising the divided nature of a franchise of great potential, but seemingly with tendencies towards self-destruction.

Their head coach, Mike Tice, aired his frustrations at a post-match press conference. "This team's going to drive me crazy," he said. Shortly afterwards, the room was plunged into darkness following a power failure. "That's how our whole season has gone," Tice added. The lights will probably go out for good for the Vikings when they visit the Green Bay Packers in their play-off contest next weekend.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

KS2 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day + Flexible with benefits: Randstad Education Group: Key St...

Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

English Teacher Full Time & Part time.

£100 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: This outstanding school in the ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album