PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger throws to the corner of the end zone, the receiver barely gets his feet down inbounds for a remarkable touchdown. Ten months after winning the Super Bowl with just such an improbable play, the Pittsburgh Steelers possibly saved their season with a nearly identical one.
Roethlisberger ended the game the way he started it by throwing a touchdown pass to Mike Wallace, a desperation 19-yarder on the final play that rallied Pittsburgh to a 37-36 victory over Green Bay on Sunday that ended the Packers' five-game winning streak and the Steelers' five-game losing streak.
"The way the game ended was incredible, especially that last play," center Justin Hartwig said, comparing the play to Roethlisberger's 6-yard pass to Santonio Holmes that beat Arizona for the NFL title last season. "It was obviously pretty reminiscent of the Super Bowl."
The Packers (9-5) stalled in their playoff run as they couldn't hold leads of 28-27 and 36-30 in a frantic fourth quarter that was much like Oakland's 27-23 win in Pittsburgh two weeks ago, when the lead changed hand five times in the final nine minutes. Green Bay could have secured a playoff spot with its first win in Pittsburgh since 1970 and a Giants loss or tie on Monday night but, instead, Minnesota clinched the NFC North with the Packers' loss.
Roethlisberger went 29 of 46 with three TDs and 503 yards passing while becoming the first Steelers quarterback to throw for 500 yards in a game. He kept the Steelers' decisive 86-yard drive going by finding Santonio Holmes for 32 yards on a fourth-and-7 play and Heath Miller for 30 on third-and-15.
Down to his last play, Roethlisberger found Wallace open in the left front corner of the end zone with Josh Bell in coverage. Wallace managed to keep both feet in on a play upheld by replay, and Jeff Reed — who also kicked three field goals — added the extra point.
Roethlisberger broke the team record of 473 yards by Tommy Maddox during a 34-all tie against Atlanta in 2002. His yardage is a league season high; Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb threw for 450 against San Diego on Nov. 15.
"The guys were coming back to the huddle worn out, linemen, receivers, everybody," Roethlisberger said. "We didn't quit. Everybody believed we could do it."
Including Wallace, who made no other catches except for his touchdowns. Shortly before making his decisive catch, Wallace quickly went to the locker room to get stitches to close a gash on his knee.
"It was kind of hard to run," Wallace said. "But that's just Ben. That's all I can say. That's just Ben."
Asked if he had good coverage on the play, Bell said, "Not good enough."
"You lose on a last-second play, with a spectacular throw and catch, it's tough," the Packers' Clay Matthews said. "Hindsight's always 20-20 but we knew what we were getting ourselves into. It was a dogfight."
Wallace also caught a 60-yard scoring pass on Pittsburgh's first play of the game as Steelers (7-7) joined five other AFC teams tied at 7-7 in the chase for the AFC's last playoff spot — and just in time. One more play, and their season probably would have been over.
"Not dead yet," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We've got a little pulse here."
The Steelers have lost five times when ahead or tied in the fourth quarter, but they rallied this time during a final quarter that featured four lead changes and a failed Pittsburgh onside kick attempt with the Steelers ahead.
Panthers 26, Vikings 7
At Charlotte, N.C., presented with an opportunity to get back into the race for the best record in the NFC, Brett Favre and the Vikings fell flat with another Sunday night dud.
Steve Smith caught the go-ahead touchdown pass and his long catch and run set up the clinching score and Carolina used a ferocious defense to stifle Favre, Adrian Peterson and the Vikings in a victory. Smith caught nine passes for 157 yards and keyed Carolina's 20-point fourth quarter.
Former Oregon standout Jonathan Stewart had 109 yards rushing on 25 carries, snapping Minnesota's NFL-long steak of 36 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher.
Titans 27, Dolphins 24
At Nashville, Tenn., Rob Bironas kicked a 46-yard field goal in overtime, and the Titans won after blowing an 18-point lead.
Vince Young threw for a career-high three touchdowns and Chris Johnson ran for 104 yards as the Titans (7-7) reached .500 for the first time this year. But the Titans made it far too interesting by blowing the big lead.
The Dolphins (7-7) also viewed this as an elimination game for their own playoff hopes. They trailed 24-6 in the third quarter before rallying, tying on Ricky Williams' 2-point conversion run with 1:34 left.
Miami won the toss and got the ball first in overtime. But Michael Griffin picked off Chad Henne's pass, and Bironas kicked the winner four plays later.
Browns 41, Chiefs 34
At Kansas City, Mo., Jerome Harrison scored his third touchdown with 44 seconds left and rushed for a team-record 286 yards, and Joshua Cribbs returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
Cribbs started the Browns (3-11) off with kickoff returns of 100 and 103 yards in the first half, breaking the NFL career record and tying the single-game mark.
Harrison took it from there, scoring all of his touchdowns in the second half to break Jim Brown's team record of 237 yards, set in 1957 and 1961. He closed it out with a 28-yard run off right tackle to finish behind only Adrian Peterson and Jamal Lewis in the NFL record book.
Raiders 20, Broncos 19
At Denver, JaMarcus Russell threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Chaz Schilens with 35 seconds left.
Russell was benched a month ago and passed by Charlie Frye on the depth chart this week.
The former No. 1 overall draft pick entered when Frye was knocked out of the game early in the fourth quarter by a blow to the head from linebacker Andra Davis. He went 5-of-11 for 47 yards.
Eagles 27, 49ers 13
At Philadelphia, Donovan McNabb threw for one touchdown and ran for another and DeSean Jackson had 140 yards receiving as the Eagles clinched a playoff berth for the eighth time this decade.
The Eagles (10-4) have won five straight games and have a one-game lead over Dallas in the NFC East. Philadelphia visits the Cowboys in two weeks.
The start of the game was pushed back three hours because the city was still recovering from the second-largest snowfall it has seen since records began in 1884. A total of 23.2 inches of snow fell in Philadelphia on Saturday.
Patriots 17, Bills 10
At Orchard Park, N.Y., Randy Moss bounced back a week after being accused of quitting by Carolina Panthers defenders with five catches for 70 yards and a touchdown. Tully Banta-Cain had three of New England's six sacks to anchor a banged-up defense.
The Patriots (9-5) won their first road game on this side of the Atlantic this season by beating their AFC East rival for the 13th straight time and 18th time in 19 meetings.
The Bills (5-9) were undone by 11 penalties for 124 yards, including a pair of pass-interference calls that set up New England's first two scores.
Buffalo's 104 yards in penalties in the first half were the most by an NFL team in an opening half this season.
Ravens 31, Bears 7
At Baltimore, Joe Flacco threw a career-high four touchdown passes, and the Ravens capitalized on six Chicago turnovers.
Baltimore (8-6) led 14-0 after 13 minutes and 31-7 after three quarters. The victory solidified the Ravens' hold on the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC and improved their record against teams currently with losing records to 6-0.
Jay Cutler threw three interceptions, upping his NFL-high total to 25, and backup Caleb Hanie was also picked off. In addition, the Bears (5-9) lost two fumbles.
Cardinals 31, Lions 24
At Detroit, Kurt Warner threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin with 1:54 left, as Arizona (9-5) moved a step closer toward clinching the NFC West.
With San Francisco's loss in Philadelphia later in the day, the Cardinals won consecutive division titles for the first time since 1974-75.
The Lions (2-12) had the ball with 1:46 left with a chance to come back, but gained just 7 yards and lost their fourth straight game.
The Cardinals went 58 yards on their game-winning drive, gaining 34 yards on Beanie Wells' run, and Boldin broke two tackles on a third-and-3 to score to give Warner two TD passes.
Falcons 10, Jets 7
At East Rutherford, N.J., Tony Gonzalez caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan on a fourth-down play with 1:38 remaining.
A day after the Falcons (7-7) were eliminated from playoff contention, they likely also ended the chances for the stunned Jets (7-7), whose three-game winning streak was stopped.
Ryan, starting after missing two games with a toe injury, drove Atlanta downfield for the win at a cold, windy and half-filled Meadowlands. Frustrated Jets fans in the upper deck tossed snow, the remnants of a major storm in the Northeast, and booed loudly after the score.
Texans 16, Rams 13
At St. Louis, Matt Schaub had his eighth 300-yard passing game and Andre Johnson set a season best with 196 yards receiving, but the Texans ended up leaning on field goals to hold off the lowly Rams.
The Rams (1-13) lost their 12th in a row at home and for the 23rd time in 24 games overall only three days after canceling practice after a confirmed case of swine flu. St. Louis got all of its players back, but lost for the second time this season while wearing throwback jerseys honoring the 1999 Super Bowl championship team.
Buccaneers 24, Seahawks 7
At Seattle, rookie Josh Freeman shook off his ninth interception in just over two games to throw two touchdown passes in the second half.
Tampa Bay's 26th-ranked defense forced five turnovers by Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, as the Buccaneers (2-12) won for just the second time in 17 games.
With maybe 500 angry Seattle fans watching by the end, the young Bucs triumphantly pointed to the sky after the team's first win away from Tampa in 10 tries, since Nov. 23, 2008, at Detroit.
Tampa Bay's last road win against a team that wasn't winless was Nov. 2, 2008, at Kansas City.