Willis McGahee pushed aside the last obstacle standing between the Baltimore Ravens and another playoff bid.
McGahee ran for a career-high 167 yards and three touchdowns, including a 77-yarder that included a vicious stiff-arm, and the Ravens clinched an AFC wild-card berth by beating the Oakland Raiders 21-13 on Sunday.
"It's not easy to make the playoffs in the National Football League, and our guys did it, and it's been a tough road," coach John Harbaugh said. "We've suffered our share of disappointments, but congratulations to our players and coaches who made it happen, really under difficult circumstances."
The Ravens (9-7) went into the regular season finale knowing a win would put them in the playoffs and a loss would send them home for an early winter. The Raiders (5-11) provided a stiff challenge for much of the game but were unable to pull it out in the end behind former starter JaMarcus Russell.
Baltimore will open the playoffs next weekend at New England.
The loss gave the Raiders seven straight seasons with at least 11 defeats, the worst run in NFL history. It also could mark the end of coach Tom Cable's stint in Oakland as his job status will likely be decided in the next few days.
Cable made some progress in his 28 games as Raiders coach but his inability to develop Russell into a legitimate NFL starter may ultimately doom him.
Russell was benched midway through this season and came on in relief in three of the final seven games, including in the second half Sunday after Charlie Frye left with an injured ankle and back.
Russell led a comeback in Denver two weeks ago and appeared poised to do so again after directing the Raiders to a field goal that cut Baltimore's lead to 14-13 late in the third quarter. But his two turnovers brought out the boo birds in Oakland and provided a fitting end to a disappointing third season for the former No. 1 overall pick. Russell committed 17 turnovers while throwing only three touchdown passes all season.
Two fans were injured at the end of the game when they fell out of the stands reaching for a shoe a player had tossed their way.
One fan left the Edward Jones Dome for a hospital strapped to a gurney. But coach Steve Spagnuolo said after the Rams' 28-6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers that he had been told neither fan was seriously hurt.
The team said in a statement that one fan was taken to Barnes-Jewish Hospital and was being evaluated.
Players typically toss equipment items into the stands as they leave the field, especially after the finale.