On an afternoon filled with impressive comebacks, the defending Super Bowl champions won a game that had a familiar ring to it.
Last year's Super Bowl runner-up, meanwhile, kept its season alive by rallying in the fourth quarter Sunday, New Orleans moved into a share of the lead in its division with a late surge and Atlanta came from 17 points behind in the fourth quarter to create something the NFL had not seen in five years -- a tie game.
In addition, the Green Bay Packers found themselves in position to clinch their division before December arrives and the San Francisco 49ers may not be far behind.
New England and St. Louis provided a very unexpected result last January when the Patriots claimed their first Super Bowl crown, but both teams have had problems since.
The Patriots put together an outstanding effort last week against Buffalo just to reach the breakeven mark while St. Louis lost its first five games of the season and has been battling uphill ever since.
Both put together comeback victories Sunday -- New England storming back to down Chicago, 33-30, and St. Louis overcomeing San Diego, 28-24.
New England's march to the Super Bowl last season featured a controversial overrule of what appeared to be a fumble by quarterback Tom Brady in the divisional round against Oakland.
Sunday's comeback also featured an instant-replay reversal of what was at first ruled to be an interception thrown by Brady.
Given that reprieve, Brady hit David Patten with a 20-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds remaining. That score came 27 seconds after Chicago defensive end Bryan Robinson seemed to have picked off a Brady pass. It was eventually ruled, however, that Robinson did not have control of the ball.
New England's win helped create a wild scramble in the AFC East. Miami lost to the New York Jets Sunday night, leaving the Patriots, Dolphins and idle Buffalo Bills tied for the division lead at 5-4. The Jets are one game back.
In St. Louis, Isaac Bruce celebrated his 30th birthday with two dazzling touchdown catches in the fourth quarter to rally the Rams past the Chargers.
The Rams' Marc Bulger, starting for perhaps the final time before the return of injured quarterback Kurt Warner, completed 36 of 48 passes for 453 yards and four touchdowns. Warner's career high in a single game has been 441 yards.
Trying to become the first team to start 0-5 and still make the playoffs, the Rams (4-5) won their fourth straight under Bulger. The loss was the second in a row for the Chargers (6-3), who squandered a 10-point fourth-quarter lead.
New Orleans also came from behind late -- Aaron Brooks capping a 91-yard drive with a seven-yard pass to rookie Donte' Stallworth with 31 seconds remaining for a 34-24 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Stallworth's catch put New Orleans in front and rookie defensive end Charles Grant sealed the win by returning quarterback Rodney Peete's fumble 34 yards for a touchdown on the game's final play.
Atlanta and Pittsburgh played the 330th regular-season overtime game since the NFL instituted an extra period to break ties in 1974. But for the 13th time in those 330 games, the tie was not broken.
The Falcons overcame a 34-17 deficit in the fourth quarter to force a 34-34 deadlock and that is the way it ended despite a breathtaking final play.
Pittsburgh quarterback Tommy Maddox, who threw four touchdown passes in the game, heaved a pass from his own 49 yard line that was caught in a crowd by a leaping Plaxico Burress.
Burress fell to the ground with his feet in the end zone. But the ball was at the one-yard line, leaving the Falcons and Steelers as the first teams to walk off the field without providing a winner since Washington and traveled 50 yards into the New York Giants played a 7-7 contest on Nov. 23, 1997.
Elsewhere around the league:
-- Brett Favre passed for 295 of his 351 yards in the first half as the Green Bay Packers built a huge lead and extended their winning streak to seven games with a 40-14 rout of the Detroit Lions. Favre, who suffered a strained knee ligament in his left knee three weeks ago, delivered his 35th career 300-yard game. Green Bay opened a five-game lead in the NFC North with seven games to play.
-- San Francisco blanked the league's highest scoring offensive over the final two periods and downed the Kansas City Chiefs, 17-13. The 49ers opened a three-game lead in the NFC West.
-- Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and untested rookie James Mungro all had big days as the Indianapolis Colts played their best game of the season in beating the Philadelphia Eagles, 35-13. Manning completed 18 of 23 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns, Harrison had six catches for 137 yards and two scores and Mungro rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
-- John Hall kicked a 27-yard field goal with 2:17 remaining to give the New York Jets a 13-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Hall also kicked a 30-yarder as time expired in the first half.
-- Jeff Blake completed 16 of 24 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown and Baltimore's defense came up with three interceptions in carrying the Ravens to a 37-28 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals also gave up a 95-yard punt return by rookie Lamont Brightful for a touchdown in the second quarter. It was the longest punt return in Ravens history, the longest ever against the Bengals and the longest in the NFL this season.
-- Steve McNair threw two touchdown passes as the Tennessee Titans stayed tied for the top in the AFC South with their fourth straight win, 17-10 over the Houston Texans. The Titans (5-4), who are tied with Indianapolis for the division lead, are in the midst of their longest winning streak since they reeled off eight consecutive wins in 2000.
-- With Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper sitting on the bench, the New York Giants had their best offensive day of the season as Tiki Barber totaled 173 yards from scrimmage and Kerry Collins passed for 300 yards in a 27-20 victory over the Vikings. Booed often, Culpepper was benched after going nine of 20 for 91 yards.
-- Shaun Alexander had a pair of short touchdown runs in the first half and Seattle took advantage of five Arizona turnovers to defeat the Cardinals, 27-6. Arizona fumbled three times inside the 10-yard line in a game that produced no points in the second half.
-- Tim Seder kicked four field goals and Fred Taylor led a potent ground game in the second half as the Jacksonville Jaguars rolled to a 26-7 victory over the Washington Redskins.