Upsets reign in 1st round of playoffs

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Green Bay Packers running back James Starks (center) runs the ball against Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jamar Chaney (left) in the third quarter of their NFC Wild Card NFL playoff game in Philadelphia on Sunday.

NEW YORK - Last season's two Super Bowl finalists were eliminated from this year's title race after a dramatic first round of NFL playoffs that produced upsets, nailbiting finishes, spectacular touchdowns and heartbreak.

The only home team and divisional champion to win on the "Wild Card weekend", the Seattle Seahawks pulled off the biggest surprise when they beat the defending champions New Orleans Saints 41-36 in a seesawing game of unrelenting tension and freeflowing action.

The Seahawks, who won the NFC West divisional title despite finishing the regular season with a losing record, twice came back from 10 points behind to snatch an unlikely victory.

The unexpected win earned the Seahawks a trip to NFC North divisional champions Chicago on Sunday to play the Bears and was sealed in the most breathtaking fashion after Marshawn Lynch beat five defenders in a 67-yard run that brought the crowd to their feet and left his own team mates searching for superlatives.

"That was the most unbelievable, unrealistic play I've ever seen in the history of football," Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry said.

The New York Jets produced the most heart-stopping moment of the opening round, avenging their loss to the Indianapolis Colts in last year's AFC championship with a last-gasp 17-16 win on Saturday.

Herculean effort

The Jets have made a habit of winning tight games this season and again left it late, scraping home on the back of a 32-yard field goal from Nick Folk on the final play of the game after the Colts had regained the lead with a field goal of their own inside the last minute.

The Jets advanced to a divisional showdown against their AFC East rival, New England, which advanced automatically, along with the Bears, Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers, to next weekend's second round of sudden-death games.

"This is the playoffs and we're moving on," Jets' coach Rex Ryan said. "It was a Herculean effort from our team."

The Baltimore Ravens blew away the AFC West champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, 30-7, scoring 20 unanswered points in the second half to book a clash with the AFC North winners, the Steelers.

The Ravens boast one of the toughest defences in the NFL this season but their win over Kansas City was aided by three interceptions off Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel.

"This one hurts," Cassel said. "It really does sting."

There was disappointment in Philadelphia too as the Eagles went down 21-16 to the Green Bay Packers.

The Packers, one of the preseason favorites to win the Super Bowl, were never headed but still had to hang on grimly before securing their next game against the Falcons, the top ranked team in the NFC.

David Akers missed two field goal attempts for Philadelphia and the Eagles almost pinched the win at the death only for quarterback Michael Vick's final throw to be intercepted in the end zone.