FACED WITH one last chance to make the playoffs, the Chicago Bears blew it.
Andre Johnson had two touchdowns and host Houston got a 31-24 win over the Bears yesterday, knocking Chicago out of the playoff picture.
The Bears (9-7) needed a win to keep any postseason hopes alive. The Vikings beat the Giants to take the NFC North title; Chicago could have earned the wild-card spot, but needed a victory combined with losses or ties by Dallas and Tampa Bay.
"Our team failed today," coach Lovie Smith said. "Overall our team didn't play well enough . . . this year to accomplish our goals. It's kind of as simple as that."
Long out of the playoff picture themselves, the Texans were determined to win this one to finish with their second straight 8-8 record. They were desperate for a big finale after an embarrassing loss to Oakland last week.
"Our whole thing was to ruin their season," Houston's Mario Williams said.
Johnson had touchdown catches of 43 and 3 yards and rebounded from last week's two-catch performance with 10 receptions for 148 yards.
"It was a real big game," Johnson said. "We were playing against a good football team that had a lot at stake. We knew what they were trying to do."
The Bears entered the game still in playoff contention after two straight overtime wins. But yesterday, their 10-0 lead evaporated with 21 straight points by the Texans and never led again.
"That first drive of course was good, but it seemed like there was a lull in the middle of the game where we haven't been able to be as productive as we need to," Smith said.
Trailing by a touchdown, Chicago had a chance to get the ball back late in the fourth quarter when Steve Slaton fumbled and the Bears recovered. Coach Gary Kubiak challenged the call and it was overturned, so the Texans retained possession.
Slaton scored his team rookie record ninth rushing touchdown a few plays later to stretch Houston's lead to 31-17.
"We didn't finish, plain and simple," Chicago's Charles Tillman said. "Opportunities presented themselves and we just didn't get it done."
In other games:
* RAVENS 27, JAGUARS 7: At Baltimore, instead of backing into the playoffs, the Ravens (11-5) made it on their own. Le'Ron McClain (70 yards, 25 carries) ran for two first-half touchdowns and the Ravens routed Jacksonville to earn an AFC wild-card berth. It was 24-7 at halftime, and Baltimore never let up against the stumbling Jaguars (5-11), who committed four turnovers and were held scoreless over the final 45 minutes. Joe Flacco went 17-for-23 for 297 yards for the Ravens.
* PATRIOTS 13, BILLS 0: At Orchard Park, N.Y., LaMont Jordan (64 yards, 20 carries) scored on a 2-yard run and Stephen Gostkowski hit a pair of field goals for New England (11-5), who missed the playoffs after Miami and Baltimore won their games. The Patriots became the first 11-5 team to miss the playoffs since Denver fell short in 1985. The Bills finished 7-9 for the third straight season.
* PANTHERS 33, SAINTS 31: At New Orleans, John Kasay's 42-yard field goal with 1 second left locked up the NFC South title and the second seed in the conference for Carolina (12-4). The Panthers, the only team to go 8-0 at home this season, will get a first-round playoff bye. Drew Brees (30-for-49, 386 yards) came up just shortb for New Orleans (8-8) in his bid to eclipse Dan Marino's 1984 single-season NFL record of 5,084 yards passing. Brees needed 402 yards to set the mark. He finished with 386, which made him only the second player to pass for more than 5,000 yards.
* CARDINALS 34, SEAHAWKS 21: At Glendale, Ariz., Kurt Warner (19-for-30, 263 yards) threw four touchdown passes, his most in 7 years, then sat out the fourth quarter and the Cardinals (9-7) beat Seattle (4-12) to spoil the final game of Mike Holmgren's decade as Seahawks coach.
* 49ERS 27, REDSKINS 24: At San Francisco, Joe Nedney kicked a 39-yard field goal as time expired, and the 49ers (7-9) finished their late-season surge with a win over Washington (8-8). After the game, the 49ers officially announced Mike Singletary will remain the head coach.
* FALCONS 31, RAMS 27: At Atlanta, Jerious Norwood ran for two touchdowns, including the go-ahead 45-yard run with 3:41 left, and the Falcons (11-5) held off the Rams (2-14) to clinch the No. 5 seed in the NFC. Michael Turner (208 yards, 25 carries) had a big day for Atlanta.
* STEELERS 31, BROWNS 0: At Pittsburgh, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gave the playoff-bound Steelers (12-4) a major scare by suffering a concussion during a meaningless victory over Cleveland (4-12). Roethlisberger, expected to play a half to stay sharp before a 2-week break, was on the turf for nearly 15 minutes after being leveled by Willie McGinest and D'Qwell Jackson while delivering a pass late in the second quarter.
* COLTS 23, TITANS 0:At Indianapolis, Peyton Manning (7-for-7, 95 yards) hit 4,000 yards for a ninth straight season, three more than Dan Marino's previous NFL mark, and the Colts (12-4) looked impressive in the final tuneup for next week's first-round playoff game. Tennessee (13-3) took a similar approach by using most starters sparingly after locking up the AFC's No. 1 seed.