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NFL-Slipping, sliding, frantic finishes in snowy NFL action

By Larry Fine NEW YORK, Dec 8 (Reuters) - A wintry wonderland of games hit the National Football League on Sunday, with snow creating extreme conditions that set up a slew of sensational scoring plays and a series of breath-taking comebacks. Snow affected four games on the East Coast, with treacherous footing leading to slipping, sliding and an avalanche of big plays as offensive players in the open field cut past stumbling defenders. The most frantic finish came in a 29-26 victory for the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens (7-6) over the visiting Minnesota Vikings (3-9-1) that allowed the winners to maintain a fragile hold on an AFC wild card berth. Five touchdowns were scored over the last 125 seconds of the game in ping-pong fashion. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had the last laugh, throwing a nine-yard touchdown strike to Marlon Brown with four seconds left to cap a five-play, 80-yard drive that took just 41 seconds. The last-gasp drive came after Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel threw a short pass to receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who raced 79 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with 45 seconds left in the game. That had followed a 77-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Baltimore's Jacoby Jones, which came on the heels of a 41-yard touchdown burst up the middle by running back Toby Gerhart, who had replaced league rushing leader Adrian Peterson after Peterson left the game with an apparent ankle injury. Keeping pace in the AFC with the Ravens were the Miami Dolphins (7-6), who maintained their sunny disposition by holding on for a 34-28 win over the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill tossed three touchdown passes, hitting tight end Charles Clay with a short pass and watching him break away from three defenders to get into the end zone with 2:53 remaining for the winning score. The Steelers (5-8) faded from the playoff picture but not before giving the Dolphins a final scare with a desperation effort on the last play of the game. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who passed for 349 yards and three scores, connected on a short pass and after a series of laterals, fleet-footed Antonio Brown sped up the sideline and into the end zone before officials ruled he had put a toe on the sidelines 13 yards short of paydirt. The heaviest snow fell in Philadelphia where the white stuff piled up to the players' calves and obscured yardage markers in the Eagles' 34-20 victory over the Detroit Lions in a match-up of division leaders. Sloppy conditions seemed to suit Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy, who darted through the Lions for a franchise-best 217 yards, including touchdown runs of 57 and 40 yards. Detroit had their share of big plays, with Jeremy Ross returning a punt for a 58-yard touchdown and a kickoff 98 yards for another score. Philadelphia improved to 8-5 to take a half-game lead over Dallas in the NFC East, while the Lions dropped to 7-6 atop the tight NFC North. In the other snowy game, the visiting Kansas City Chiefs clobbered the Washington Redskins 45-10 to snap a three-game losing streak and improve to 10-3. In another fantastic finish, the New England Patriots overcame the visiting Cleveland Browns 27-26 with two late scores after losing tight end Rob Gronkowski to injury. Quarterback Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes in 30 seconds, including a one-yarder to wide receiver Danny Amendola with 31 seconds left after New England recovered an onside kick. The win improved the AFC East-leading Patriots to 10-3, but their joy was tempered by an apparent knee injury to Gronkowski who was carted off to the locker room and will be undergo tests on Monday. In Cincinnati, the AFC North-leading Bengals beat AFC South leaders the Indianapolis Colts 42-28 as quarterback Andy Dalton led the way with three touchdown passes and ran in for another. The Bengals took their record to 9-4, while the Colts slipped to 8-5. The Green Bay Packers, 0-4-1 since quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broke collarbone, finally notched a victory without their regular signal caller to stay alive in the NFC North. Green Bay (6-6-1) rallied from a 21-10 halftime deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons at home when quarterback Matt Flynn hit Andrew Quarless with a two-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against Atlanta (3-10). (Editing by ......)