EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Philip Rivers threw a touchdown pass to Antonio Gates, Melvin Gordon ran for a score, and the Los Angeles Chargers stayed alive in the AFC playoff race with a 14-7 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday.
The Chargers (8-7) entered the weekend needing to win both of their remaining games — including next Sunday at home against Oakland — and get lots of help elsewhere to remain in the mix. Rivers & Co. held up their end of things, but barely.
Los Angeles, which started the season 0-4, had a tough time getting much going against a spirited effort by the defense of the Jets (5-10). Rivers finished 22 of 40 for 290 yards.
Gordon had 81 yards on 19 carries, but left late in the game with an ankle injury. He remained standing on the sideline as the Chargers tried to run out the clock.
Bryce Petty, making his second start this season in place of the injured Josh McCown, struggled all game. He missed open receivers and repeatedly flexed his right hand, which he banged up early in the game. But he remained in, going 15 of 28 for 119 yards and an interception.
Bilal Powell was the bright spot for the Jets’ offense, rushing for 145 yards, including a 57-yard TD, on 19 carries.
Los Angeles took a 7-0 lead with 8:55 left in the first half on Gates’ 3-yard touchdown catch, capping a 12-play, 71-yard drive.
The Chargers had a chance to increase their advantage early in the third quarter, but Nick Rose, signed earlier this week, was wide right on a 47-yard attempt.
New York took advantage of the miss to tie it on Powell’s long touchdown run.
Los Angeles regained the lead quickly, however, on Gordon’s 1-yard run. Gordon hit the hole and pushed over the goal line with a strong second and third effort.
The Jets had a chance to tie in the closing minutes, getting a roughing-the-passer call on Joey Bosa to help extend their drive. But on fourth-and-7 from the Chargers 17, Petty’s heave to Robby Anderson in the end zone with 3:07 left fell incomplete.
Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen intercepted Petty’s desperation toss to end the first half. It was the first career interception for Allen, who was tackled by Brandon Shell. The Jets right tackle injured his head on the play and was replaced by Brent Qvale in the second half.
Los Angeles’ Travis Benjamin returned a punt 91 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter — but it was nullified by a holding penalty on Nick Dzubnar. Instead, it went down as a 14-yard return for Benjamin.
Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was inactive after being benched at New Orleans last Sunday for being late to a team meeting.
Wilkerson practiced with the team all week, and coach Todd Bowles insisted the veteran “served his sentence” when asked if further discipline might be used. The Jets did not provide an immediate reason for Wilkerson not playing Sunday, but his contract situation could play a role. His $16.75 million salary for next season is fully guaranteed against a serious injury.
Jets defensive end Leonard Williams left in the second half with a back injury and didn’t return. … Jonotthan Harrison started at center for the Jets in place of Wesley Johnson, who was active but dealt with a hip ailment all week. Right guard Brian Winters was out with an abdominal injury and Dakota Dozier started in his place. … Chargers left tackle Russell Okung was inactive with a groin injury and replaced by rookie Sam Tevi.
The Jets won the opening coin toss, but deferred — and then pulled off a successful onside kick to start the game.
New York became the second team this season to attempt an onside kick to open a game, joining Tennessee (Week 1). The Jets are also the first team to successfully recover on onside kick in the first 30 seconds since Philadelphia in Week 17 of the 2012 season, according to NFL Research.
The Jets came away without any points, though, as an offensive pass interference call on Anderson and a sack by Tenny Palepoi short-circuited New York’s drive.
Chargers: vs. Oakland next Sunday.
Jets: at New England next Sunday.
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