Both Sixth Seeds Win Wild-Card Games
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Chargers and Saints further proved the old adage for the NFL playoffs: “Just Get In.”
San Diego took away the ball four times in a 27-10 win at Cincinnati on Sunday that extended the Bengals’ losing ways in the postseason to 23 years. The Chargers outscored Cincinnati 20-0 in the second half, handing the Bengals their first home loss this season.
On Saturday, NFC sixth seed New Orleans won 26-24 at Philadelphia. The last time both sixth seeds won was 2010, when the Packers wound up winning the Super Bowl.
San Diego, which has won five straight, barely got into the playoffs, needing an overtime victory against Kansas City’s subs last weekend. Now, the Chargers (10-7) head to AFC top-seeded Denver (13-3), where they won 27-20 last month — the Broncos’ only home loss this season. The original AFL teams have never met in the playoffs.
“We talked all week about this being the fifth round,” quarterback Philip Rivers said, “so the sixth round will be in Denver next week. We know Denver is a great team … we’ll be ready for the challenge. Go see if we can score one more point than they can.”
The Chargers also avenged their most recent loss, a 17-10 home defeat to Cincinnati, which finished 11-6 but is 0-5 in the postseason under coach Marvin Lewis.
Later Sunday, it was San Francisco at frigid Green Bay, with wind chills well below zero.
On Saturday, New Orleans got its first road playoff victory since entering the league in 1967, and Indianapolis staged a sensational comeback against Kansas City.
The Saints visit top-seeded Seattle, where they lost 34-7 during the season, next Saturday. The Colts go to New England, the AFC’s No. 2 seed, next Saturday night.
Saints 26, Eagles 24
At Philadelphia, Shayne Graham gave his 10th team something to celebrate with four field goals, including a 32-yarder on the final play to win. New Orleans had been 0-5 on the road in the postseason, but a strong running game, solid defense and the leadership of Drew Brees.
“As much as we hate hearing that talk, we kind of brought it on ourselves,” Brees said of questions about the Saints (12-5) winning on the road and in the cold — whether during the season or in the playoffs. “We lost our last three on the road.”
Thanks to Graham, who was signed 2½ weeks ago when longtime kicker Garrett Hartley was released, they get a chance to start on playoff winning streak away from the Big Easy.
“It really doesn’t matter happened last year or any years past,” Brees said. “We’re not living off the glory or the mistakes of the past.”
The Eagles (10-7) went from last to first in the NFC East under first-year coach Chip Kelly and have plenty to build around.
“I know that this season is over, but we’re going to keep working and growing as a team,” said quarterback Nick Foles, who led the NFL in passer rating. “I love playing here, I love this city, I love this team, and I love this organization because I know the heart of it. The heart of it is the heart of Philadelphia. Like Coach Kelly said, ‘We fight,’ and we’re going to keep fighting.”
Colts 45, Chiefs 44
At Indianapolis, the Colts (12-5) staged one of the NFL’s greatest comebacks. Andrew Luck, showing the touch and poise of, well, Peyton Manning in previous years in Indy, threw three of his four touchdowns in the second half. Luck also scored on a fumble return, and connected with a wide-open T.Y. Hilton on a 64-yard pass. Adam Vinatieri, who knows something about big postseason kicks, made the extra point for the winning edge.
Indy trailed 38-10 in the third quarter.
“I don’t know what level it is, but he sure went to another one,” coach Chuck Pagano said of Luck. “He’s a guy that is able to put things behind him in a hurry.”
Kansas City (11-6), which began the season 9-0, will have a tough time putting this loss behind it.
“Any time you’re leading like that and then have them battle back and then take it and losing by a point is a tough pill to swallow,” Chiefs QB Alex Smith said.
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