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Colts, Seahawks and Packers through to playoffs


Green Bay Packers starting quarter back Aaron Rodgers celebrates victory against the Chicago Bears with fans in their NFL football game in Green Bay, Wisconsin January 2, 2011. REUTERS/Jeffrey Phelps
Green Bay Packers starting quarter back Aaron Rodgers celebrates victory against the Chicago Bears with fans in their NFL football game in Green Bay, Wisconsin January 2, 2011. REUTERS/Jeffrey Phelps

By Simon Evans

MIAMI (Reuters) - The Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks secured places in the playoffs on Sunday in an exciting climax to the NFL's regular season.

The Packers beat the Chicago Bears 10-3 and will visit the Philadelphia Eagles in the wildcard round next week. With Green Bay's victory they denied the New York Giants a place in the playoffs even though they beat the Washington Redskins 17-14.

A one-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to tight end Donald Lee put the Packers ahead in the fourth quarter and their defense held firm.

But trailing by three at half-time, and with other results meaning they had to win, Rodgers said there had been some jitters in the locker-room.

"There was definitely some nerves at halftime. I think just frustration was the biggest thing and knowing that we needed to win and knowing that we were struggling on offense," he added.

"There wasn't a whole lot said as far as rah-rah or anything. It was just 'Hey, let's play better. Let's execute better."

The Colts won the AFC South title and booked a record-tying ninth successive trip to the playoffs with an Adam Vinatieri field goal from 43-yards as time expired to beat the Tennessee Titans 23-20.

Quarterback Peyton Manning said Indianapolis, beaten in last year's Super Bowl, had made it through despite a series of injuries that hampered their season.

"When you think about the 2010 regular season you'll have a little smile knowing we were able to win this division despite some football adversity and that's a credit to a lot of people," said Manning.

The Colts will host the New York Jets in their wildcard game Saturday while the other games next weekend feature the Baltimore Ravens against the Kansas City Chiefs.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

The Seahawks became the first team with a losing regular season record to win a division and qualify for the playoffs after they beat the St Louis Rams 16-6 to end the campaign with a 7-9 record.

Thanks to a solid display from stand-in quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, Seattle will now play the New Orleans Saints in Saturday's wildcard game and could have first-choice Matt Hasselbeck fully recovered from the hip injury that ruled him out against the Rams.

The Saints, the defending Super Bowl champions, lost 23-13 at home to Tampa Bay but had already assured themselves of a wildcard spot.

Earlier, the Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers secured divisional titles with convincing victories.

The Falcons (13-3) wrapped up the NFC South and home-field advantage ahead of the Saints with an impressive 31-10 home win over the Carolina Panthers (2-14).

The Steelers (12-4) won the AFC North and a bye week by hammering the Cleveland Browns 41-9 on the road. Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdowns while Rashard Mendenhall ran over twice in the rout over the division-rival Browns (5-11).

"Mission accomplished," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told reporters. "We came to Cleveland to claim the AFC North title and we got it done.

"Not a lot needed to be said about the stakes. It's one less game we have to play to get to where we want to go," he said.

The New England Patriots (14-2), already assured of a bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, crushed a ragged Miami Dolphins (7-9) team 38-7.

(Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Frank Pingue and Peter Rutherford)

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