AFC West: Bengals-Chargers 122009

SAN DIEGO --- The San Diego Chargers are playing clutch football.

And they may be doing it late into January and perhaps beyond. The Chargers just won an incredibly emotional game against the grieving Cincinnati Bengals. Cincinnati receiver Chris Henry died Thursday.

San Diego won the game on a 52-yard field goal by the underrated Nate Kaeding with three seconds to go.

San Diego is now 11-3 and is on the doorstep of getting the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs and a first-round bye.

San Diego has won nine straight games. It has won an NFL record 17 straight games in December dating back to 2006. It clinched the AFC West with its win and Denver's loss to Oakland.

This game had a playoff feel to it and the Chargers made the big plays when they had to.

Once again, San Diego showed that no one wants to play this team come the playoffs.
SAN DIEGO --- Vincent Jackson just takes over.

The San Diego receiver caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to give the Chargers a 21-13 lead. For some reason, Cincinnati was single covering the dynamic Jackson. It was his second touchdown catch of the day. Rivers has three touchdown passes.

The Chargers struck quickly. The touchdown came two plays after San Diego cornerback Quentin Jammer had an interception at the Cincinnati 40.

The Bengals look flat after they played with a lot of emotion early in the first game after the death of receiver Chris Henry. But now, the Bengals look tired. Plus, the San Diego crowd is going nuts.

It may be tough for the Bengals to rebound.

Halftime notes from San Diego

December, 20, 2009
12/20/09
5:29
PM ET
SAN DIEGO --- San Diego cornerback Quentin Jammer dropped an interception in the end zone with 15 seconds to go in the first half, allowing the Bengals to hit a field goal eight seconds later to cut San Diego’s lead to 14-13 at the half.

San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson became the first Chargers receiver since Tony Martin in 1995-96 to register consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson has 34 yards on nine carries. Meanwhile, tight end Antonio Gates has four catches for 33 yards.

Philip Rivers is having a nice game and has completed 13 of 20 passes for 130 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception.

Ochocinco quietly honors Henry

December, 20, 2009
12/20/09
4:56
PM ET
SAN DIEGO --- Chad Ochocinco just scored on a 49-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to give the Bengals a 10-7 lead over the Chargers in the second quarter.

Ochocinco did not wildly celebrate the big play, as he usually does. He simply dropped to his knees and pointed to the sky.

It was an obvious emotional tribute to former Bengals receiver Chris Henry, who died Thursday -- a day after suffering major head injuries when he fell out of the back of a pickup truck following a domestic dispute in Charlotte, N.C.

This is an emotional day for the Bengals and Ochocinco’s tribute surely inspired his teammates.

Pregame notes from San Diego

December, 20, 2009
12/20/09
3:25
PM ET
SAN DIEGO -- Chad Ochocinco is on the field and he is wearing his No. 85 jersey.

He was considering wearing No. 15 to honor teammate Chris Henry. Henry died Thursday after he suffered major head injuries when he fell out of a truck Wednesday following a domestic dispute. Ochocinco was subject to an NFL suspension had he worn Henry’s jersey.

  • San Diego center Nick Hardwick is missing his 13th straight game with an ankle injury.
  • San Diego linebacker Kevin Burnett is inactive with a neck injury.
  • Cincinnati’s Pat Sims will start at defensive tackle for Domata Peko, who has a knee injury.
  • Cincinnati’s Tom Nelson will start at free safety for Chris Crocker, who has an ankle injury.

San Diego-bound

December, 19, 2009
12/19/09
3:00
PM ET
I am on my way to San Diego for Sunday’s crucial game between the Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals.

If San Diego wins, it will be in great shape to earn the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. The Chargers can also clinch the AFC West title Sunday. The Chargers have won eight straight games, coming off an impressive win at Dallas last week.

San Diego has won a record 16 straight games in December, so this will be an intriguing afternoon.

I will also be keeping tabs on all the other action in the AFC West on Sunday. Please check back for pre, post and in-game coverage.

Three keys for San Diego

December, 19, 2009
12/19/09
1:30
PM ET
The 10-3 Chargers can put a firm grip on the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs with a win over the visiting 9-4 Bengals on Sunday. Let’s look at three keys for San Diego in the game:

Don’t commit turnovers: The Chargers are the better team. They are more talented and they are playing better. They should beat the visiting Bengals. But the Bengals can win this game if they get some help from the Chargers. San Diego can’t be sloppy with the ball. If the Chargers finish their drives and score when they have opportunities, the Bengals won’t be able to keep up. But if San Diego gives the ball away and fails to score as much as it can, the Bengals could sneak away with a win.

Spread the wealth: San Diego needs everyone to have a big game on offense. Last week, receiver Vincent Jackson had a resurgence after experiencing a three-week production dip. Tight end Antonio Gates took over for Jackson when he slipped. Gates took a back seat last week when Jackson ravaged Dallas. The Chargers need to get both Jackson and Gates heavily involved in this crucial game while not giving up on the run game. San Diego has to throw everything it has at Cincinnati.

Stop the run: San Diego has allowed its share of yards on the ground this season. San Diego is ranked 21st in the NFL against the run, allowing 117.1 yards per game. Cincinnati will try to take advantage of the Chargers’ vulnerability against the run. Cincinnati is sixth in the NFL in rushing. It is averaging 132.8 yards a game. If the Bengals can run the ball right at San Diego, the Bengals can eat the clock, control the ball and keep the Chargers’ offense off the field. San Diego’s defense has to answer the challenge.

Chargers to host emotional Bengals

December, 17, 2009
12/17/09
1:50
PM ET
The San Diego Chargers have become part of the biggest story in the NFL right now.

The Chargers will host the heartbroken Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The Bengals are mourning the loss of receiver Chris Henry. He died Thursday at the age of 26 after suffering major head injuries in an auto accident in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday.

Sunday’s game has been anticipated because of its major playoff ramifications. The winner will have the inside track on the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.

Now, it will be watched to see how the Bengals rebound emotionally. Henry will obviously be on the team’s mind during the game. The team has announced that coaches will wear pins to remember Henry and players will wear helmet stickers in Henry’s memory.

This is the second time this season the Bengals have had to play days after enduring a tragedy. Earlier this season, the wife of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer died suddenly. The Bengals went out and won an emotionally-charged game at Baltimore three days later.

Now, the Bengals have to try to do it again in San Diego.

Chargers avoid TV blackout

December, 17, 2009
12/17/09
1:45
PM ET
San Diego knows a big game when it sees it.

The Chargers did not have to sweat out a potential local television blackout this week. The team has sold out Sunday’s pivotal game against Cincinnati. The winner gets the inside track on the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.

San Diego did announce it has 5,500 seats remaining for its regular-season finale against Washington on Jan. 3.
The San Diego Chargers are closing in on clinching a playoff berth. The Chargers, who are 10-3 and have won eight straight games, can clinch their fourth straight AFC West title when they host Cincinnati on Sunday.

Here are the scenarios:

San Diego clinches AFC West division title with:

1) DEN loss

or

2) SD win or tie + DEN tie

San Diego clinches a first-round bye with:

SD win + DEN loss or tie + NE loss or tie

San Diego clinches a playoff spot with:

1) SD win or tie

or

2) NE loss or tie + BAL loss or tie + MIA loss or tie

or

3) NE loss or tie + BAL loss or tie + NYJ loss or tie

or

4) MIA loss or tie + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie

or

5) MIA loss or tie + NYJ loss or tie + JAC loss or tie

or

6) MIA loss or tie + BAL loss or tie + JAC loss or tie

or

7) NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie + JAC loss or tie

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