FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts (Reuters) - Peyton Manning threw a late interception and his Indianapolis Colts failed to complete a comeback against the New England Patriots, who held on for a 31-28 victory in one of many exciting NFL finishes on Sunday.
A field goal extended that lead to 17 points but Manning masterminded a pair of scoring drives, each capped by touchdown passes to Blair White, that put the Colts back in the game.
Manning, who finished with 396 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions, had the Colts in range for a game-tying field goal but the drive was halted when an attempted pass to Pierre Garcon was intercepted with under a minute to play.
It was an uncharacteristic error from Manning and the loss dropped the Colts into a share of first place in the AFC South with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who earlier beat the Cleveland Browns 24-20.
Jacksonville, trailing Cleveland by three points with under three minutes to play, had running back Maurice Jones-Drew to thank for the win after he made a magnificent 75-yard reception that set up his one-yard touchdown run.
Cleveland still had a chance to steal a victory but, like the Colts, were also victims of a late interception.
The defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints easily dealt with the Seattle Seahawks as Drew Brees had a fine day with four touchdowns and 382 yards in a 34-19 victory.
The Green Bay Packers cruised to a 31-3 romp over Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings, all but eliminating their divisional rival from the NFL playoff picture.
It is turning out to be a miserable year for the Vikings, who suffered a second loss to the Packers this season, and Favre, who is facing a review into allegations that he sent lewd text messages to a Jets female staff member.
The Vikings fall to 3-7 and their post-season hopes are fading quickly after a game in which Favre threw for 208 yards but no touchdowns and one interception that was converted into a touchdown by the Packers.
Aaron Rodgers, Favre's replacement in Green Bay, threw for 301 yards and four touchdowns, including three caught by wide receiver Greg Jennings.
The New York Jets again showed their ability to win late with a last gasp 30-27 comeback victory over the Houston Texans.
New York were up 16 points up in the fourth quarter but the Texans roared back with two touchdowns and two field goals to grab a 27-23 lead before the dramatic final play, which was set up by a 42-yard throw to receiver Braylon Edwards.
The Dallas Cowboys enjoyed a second straight win under new interim coach Jason Garrett with a 35-19 victory over the Detroit Lions.
Cowboys quarterback Jon Kitna, playing in place of injured Tony Romo, enjoyed a good day in the win over Detroit, throwing for 147 yards and three touchdowns before capping the win with his own 29-yard touchdown run.
The Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3) tore the Oakland Raiders apart as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdowns in an impressive 35-3 home win.
Oakland defensive end Richard Seymour was ejected from the game for punching Roethlisberger in the face in an incident after a second quarter touchdown for the Steelers.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Frank Pingue)