Rice's heroics fail to lift 49ers

American football

Jerry Rice, of the San Francisco 49ers, has become the NFL's all-time receptions leader, setting a new single-season receiving yardage record in the process.

However, Rice's heroics failed to stop the Super Bowl champions losing 28-27 to the Atlanta Falcons on Christmas Eve. The defeat followed a run of six wins in succession for the 49ers.

Rice caught 12 passes for 153 yards against the Falcons, the catches boosting his career total to 942, three more than Philadelphia's Art Monk, who came into Sunday's game against Chicago with 939 receptions, but suffered a broken arm.

Rice's 57-yard reception from Steve Young in the second quarter moved him past Charley Hennigan of the 1961 Houston Oilers as the single-season reception yardage leader. Rice finished with 1,848 yards, 102 more than Hennigan.

Atlanta, whose success was orchestrated by Bobby Herbert - who replaced the injured Jeff George late in the first half when the Falcons were trailing 21-13 - who thew a pair of touchdown passes to Terance Mathis.

Atlanta's Morten Andersen also got himself in the record books with a 59-yard field goal that gave him seven of 50 yards or more this season, an NFL record. The kick was also the fourth longest in NFL history.

Kansas City finished with the NFL's best record, 13-3, beating Seattle 26-3 to seal homefield advantage for the play-offs.

NFL: Atlanta 28 San Francisco 27; Houston 28 Buffalo 17; Chicago 20 Philadelphia 14; Cincinnati 27 Minnesota 24; Green Bay 24 Pittsburgh 19; Jacksonville 24 Cleveland 21; Kansas City 26 Seattle 3; New Orleans 12 NY Jets 0; Denver 31 Oakland 28; Miami 41 St Louis 22; Washington 20 Carolina 17; San Diego 27 NY Giants 17; Detroit 37 Tampa Bay 10; Indianapolis10 New England 7

NFL STANDINGS

American Conference

EASTERN DIVISION

W L T PF PA

*Buffalo 10 6 0 350 335

**Indianapolis 9 7 0 331 316

**Miami 9 7 0 398 332

New England 6 10 0 294 377

NY Jets 3 13 0 233 384

CENTRAL DIVISION

*Pittsburgh 11 5 0 407 327

Cincinnati 7 9 0 349 374

Houston 7 9 0 348 324

Cleveland 5 11 0 289 356

Jacksonville 4 12 0 275 404

WESTERN DIVISION

*Kansas City 13 3 0 332 238

**San Diego 9 7 0 321 323

Denver 8 8 0 388 345

Oakland 8 8 0 348 332

Seattle 8 8 0 363 366

National Conference

EASTERN DIVISION

*Dallas 11 4 0 398 278

**Philadelphia 10 6 0 318 338

Washington 6 10 0 326 359

NY Giants 5 11 0 290 340

Arizona 4 11 0 262 385

CENTRAL DIVISION

*Green Bay 11 5 0 404 314

**Detroit 10 6 0 436 336

Chicago 9 7 0 392 360

Minnesota 8 8 0 412 385

Tampa Bay 7 9 0 238 335

WESTERN DIVISION

*San Francisco 11 5 0 457 258

**Atlanta 9 7 0 362 349

New Orleans 7 9 0 319 348

St Louis 7 9 0 309 418

Carolina 7 9 0 289 325

* Clinched division title; ** Clinched play-off berth

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