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April 19, 2014

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NFL:

Chargers slip into playoffs; Seahawks grab No. 1 seed

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Dave Martin / Associated Press

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton greets fans after the second half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, in Atlanta. The Carolina Panthers won 21-20.

Updated Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013 | 5:26 p.m.

The San Diego Chargers' three-year playoff drought is over, thanks to another epic, heart-stopping win against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chargers have needed help for weeks, and everything fell into place on Sunday, with the last piece being a 27-24 overtime victory over a Chiefs team that already had clinched the AFC's No. 5 seed and rested 20 of 22 starters.

Nick Novak kicked a 36-yard field goal with 5:30 left in overtime. The Chargers, who trailed by 10 points in the fourth quarter, then held the Chiefs on downs to win it after they reached the San Diego 41.

Earlier in the day, the Chargers (9-7) got the help they needed when Miami and Baltimore both lost. San Diego has won four straight and five of six heading into a wild-card game next weekend at AFC North champion Cincinnati.

The Chiefs (11-5) go into the playoffs having lost five of seven. They play at AFC South champion Indianapolis, which won 23-7 in Kansas City last week.

After failing on two previous occasions, the Seattle Seahawks finally ensured the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through the Pacific Northwest.

Malcolm Smith returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown, Marshawn Lynch added a 2-yard scoring run and the Seahawks clinched the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a 27-9 victory over the St. Louis Rams.

Seattle (13-3) matched the franchise record for wins in a season and finally wrapped up the No. 1 seed after losses to San Francisco and last week to Arizona, which snapped a 14-game home winning streak.

Elsewhere:

• Cam Newton threw two touchdown passes, Greg Hardy had a team-record four sacks and the Panthers clinched their first NFC South title in five years by beating the Atlanta Falcons 21-20.

• Phil Dawson kicked a 40-yard field goal as the game ended to lift San Francisco to a 23-20 victory over Arizona, giving the 49ers the NFC's No. 5 playoff seed.

• The Steelers (8-8) were eliminated from postseason contention when San Diego edged Kansas City.

• LeGarrette Blount and the Patriots dashed and splashed their way to a first-round AFC bye. The powerful back rushed for a career-high 189 yards and two touchdowns and had two long kickoff returns as New England beat the Buffalo Bills 34-20.

• Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb came back just in time to lift the Green Bay Packers to the NFC North championship. Rodgers fired a 48-yard touchdown pass to Cobb in the final minute, and the Packers beat the Chicago Bears 33-28 to capture the division title.

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