SAN DIEGO (AP) — In a microcosm of their season, the San Diego Chargers came on strong late — and got some huge breaks — to beat Kansas City’s second string and slide into the AFC’s final playoff spot.
The biggest break came when Kansas City’s Ryan Succop was wide right on a 41-yard field goal in a tie game with four seconds left in regulation. The NFL said Monday that the officials erred in not calling San Diego for an illegal formation.
The Chargers, who won 27-24 in overtime, aren’t going to apologize.
“We’ve been on the other end of some of those, too, this year,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “You go back every week about what could’ve been called. This, that. That’s all part of it. Did we get a few breaks yesterday? Yeah. But did I think for one bit we were given anything? Absolutely not. We fought like crazy to stay alive all year and we fought like crazy to earn these last four.”
San Diego has won four straight and five of six heading into its wild-card game Sunday at Cincinnati, which was the last team to beat San Diego.
The Chargers got help from more than just the referees. They needed Baltimore and Miami to both lose in consecutive weeks, which happened.
The Chargers haven’t been in the playoffs since 2009, when they were 13-3 and earned the AFC’s No. 2 seed before being embarrassed at home in a 17-14 loss to the New York Jets in the divisional round.
“It’s been a real long time so it feels great to be back in,” Rivers said.
San Diego hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008, when it won its final four games and took advantage of a collapse by Denver to win the AFC West at 8-8. San Diego beat Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in overtime in a home wild-card game before losing at Pittsburgh.
“I think it’s even more crazy that we were able to recover and bounce back and find ourselves in the tournament,” Rivers said. “I mean, in 2008 it was just us and one other team. In this one, there were a lot of things going on, a lot of scenarios, a lot of things that had to happen, and they all did. The thing for our guys, I know for our team that we kept talking about, there wasn’t a scenario, though, just like in 2008, that we didn’t have to play our part. It wasn’t just, `Well, if this happens, if this happens, we don’t have to win.’ I think we kept our focus on us, regardless of what else has to happen, part of the equation is the Chargers have to win and we have to get to nine (victories) and see what happens. We did our part.”
The Chargers were 5-7 after losing four of five games.
On Sunday, they were down 10 points in the fourth quarter before Rivers led them back to a 24-24 tie. After Succop missed, the Chiefs lost the overtime coin toss and the Chargers elected to receive. They settled for Nick Novak’s 36-yard field goal with 5:30 left in OT. The Chargers then stopped the Chiefs to win.
“We misaligned on it. I’m not going to deny it,” Chargers rookie coach Mike McCoy said Monday about Succop’s missed field goal. “But hey, those calls all balance themselves out over the year. They’re part of the game. We’re all human. … Things happen for a reason. We didn’t do it on purpose, I can tell you that.”
So the Chargers advance after being given up for dead by most outsiders weeks ago.
“I feel like we’ve been playing playoff football for four weeks, and we have,” Rivers said. “That was the situation we put ourselves in. … We’ve been in a playoff-type mindset for a few weeks now, so hopefully that will help us. Nothing will change. It’s win and stay alive, and that’s what we’ve been now for a month.”
Cincinnati beat the Chargers 17-10 in San Diego on Dec. 1. The Bengals ran for 164 yards, held Rivers to just 252 yards passing, forced three turnovers and preyed on a big breakdown in coverage.
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