Packers, Chargers, Saints take playoff spots
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (R) of the Green Bay Packers looks to pass against the Chicago Bears during their NFL game at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, on December 29, 2013
The Packers on Sunday joined the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers in claiming playoff spots on the final day of the regular season with one last spot going to the winner of a later game between Philadelphia and Dallas.
Rodgers, who missed the past seven games with a broken collarbone suffered in a loss to Chicago last month, saw an unguarded received beyond the Bears' defense and connected with Cobb, who had been out for more than two months with a knee injury.
"This is an amazing feeling. What a game," Rodgers said. "So many plays. I felt like I was in a rhythm, like we were moving good.
"We left some points out there but against our rivals, win or go home game, I couldn't be prouder."
The Bears saw their season end on an interception off a desperation pass on the game's final play.
"You have to give the Packers credit," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "They were able to convert three fourth downs and Aaron Rodgers was able to make a great play to win the game."
New Orleans secured a post-season position with a 42-17 rout of Tampa Bay while San Diego edged Kansas City 27-24 in overtime to seal a playoff berth.
In the American Conference, Denver captured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a 34-14 romp at Oakland in which Peyton Manning set single-season NFL pass yardage and touchdown records and the Broncos finished with a one-season NFL record 606 points.
New England joined Denver with a first-round bye after defeating Buffalo 34-20.
In the National Conference, Seattle beat St. Louis 27-9 to secure a home-field playoff edge and first-round bye while Carolina clinched a bye as well with a 21-20 win at Atlanta.
Next weekend's American Conference playoff openers will find Kansas City at Indianapolis and San Diego at Cincinnati, where the host Bengals seek their first playoff win since 1990, while San Francisco travels to Green Bay and New Orleans will visit Philadelphia or Dallas in the National Conference.
Rodgers completed 25-of-39 passes for 318 yards and two touchdowns and was crucial in a bizarre Green Bay touchdown play.
Chicago's Julius Peppers knocked the ball from Rodgers' grasp in what looked like an incomplete pass but was in reality a fumble.
Green Bay's Jarrett Boykin picked up the ball, paused for several seconds and then ran 15 yards into the end zone unchallenged for a touchdown.
Chicago's Matt Forte caught a touchdown pass and ran for two more scores.
Manning, the Broncos' 37-year-old quarterback, threw for 266 yards and four touchdowns in the first half at Oakland then sat out the second half.
Manning finished with 5,477 passing yards, one more than the old mark set by Drew Brees of New Orleans in 2011, and 55 passing touchdowns, adding four to the record he set last week, the old mark being 50 by New England's Tom Brady in 2007.
Four teams chased the final American Conference berth with Pittsburgh beating Cleveland 20-7 to force San Diego to win or miss the playoffs.
The host Steelers improved to 8-8, avoiding their first losing season since 2003, but needed losses by Miami, Baltimore and San Diego to reach the playoffs.
Reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore was eliminated with a 34-17 loss at Cincinnati, the Ravens missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Cincinnati's Andy Dalton completed 21-of-36 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns with four interceptions as the Bengals completed a perfect 8-0 home schedule.
Miami lost 20-7 at home to the New York Jets, leaving both teams 8-8 and out of the playoffs based on tie-breakers.
Jets owner Woody Johnson said after the game he would keep Rex Ryan as coach of the team for next season after New York kept the Dolphins out of the playoffs for the fifth season in a row.
That left the Chargers needing only a draw against the Chiefs, who benched most of their starters having already clinched a playoff berth.
But San Diego trailed by 10 points in the fourth quarter before pulling level at 24-24 on Nick Novak's 22-yard field goal with 3:21 to play and winning on Bovak's 36-yard field goal in overtime.
Tennessee beat Houston 16-10, ensuring the Texans the top pick in next year's NFL Draft after a league-worst 2-14 season.
The Minnesota Vikings won their final home game in the Metrodome, edging Detroit 14-13. The stadium will be torn down and replaced with a new venue, sending the Vikings to a nearby college stadium for the next two years.