American Football: Wilkins converts to thwart Saints
Tuesday 04 January 2005
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.
Latest in Sport
The Premier League is about earning the right to play on the counter-attack - Danny Higginbotham
Chelsea vs Crystal Palace: Alan Pardew seems to be building something special down at the Palace
John Stones to Chelsea: Next season's bumper TV deal means clubs such as Everton can say 'no'
Kevin De Bruyne: Why do Manchester City put such a high value on a player Chelsea rejected?
David De Gea to Real Madrid: Manchester United to 'make goalkeeper suffer' before deciding his fate as Real prepare £29.3m bid
- 1 The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
- 2 Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
- 3 Celebrity Big Brother 2015: Tila Tequila kicked off show after 'describing Hitler as a good man'
- 4 iPhone 5c to be discontinued, no iPhone 6c to replace it
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...
£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...
£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...