The Chargers’ defense forced two early turnovers that led to touchdowns, but the hero of the game and the season was quarterback Philip Rivers.
Rivers, who succeeded Drew Brees in 2006, went 21-for-27 for 264 yards and two touchdowns through roughly three quarters.
The Chargers own an 18-0 record in December with Rivers as their starter and Norv Turner as coach. That combination also beat the Colts in the 2007 and 2008 playoffs, which makes the Chargers a definite Super Bowl threat next month.
FIVE TRENDS FROM WEEK 16
UP: The Jets went from miserable to lucky in a week. They lost at home to the Falcons on a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter last week. But on Sunday they got a huge break when the Colts decided to rest their starters in the third quarter. That allowed the Jets to rally to a 29-15 victory and enter the final week in control of their fate.
DOWN: The Ravens were coming off routs of the Bears and Lions and had just beaten the Steelers four weeks earlier. But as in the playoffs last season, the Ravens couldn’t get the job done in Pittsburgh when it counted. The Ravens lost to the Steelers at Heinz Field 23-20 to slip to 8-7 and jeopardize a wild-card berth.
UP: Break up the Bucs? After a 1-12 start, the Bucs have won two straight. They routed the Seahawks last week and Sunday rallied from a 17-point deficit to stun the Saints in overtime. The Bucs are hurting their draft position, but right now they’re all smiles in Tampa Bay.
DOWN: Like the Dolphins and Giants, the Jaguars entered Sunday still in the running for a playoff berth. They left the hunt after a 35-7 pounding by the Patriots, their third straight loss and fourth in five weeks. Jacksonville dropped to 7-8 and the brink of elimination with the defeat.
UP: The Packers responded in style to last week’s last-second loss at Pittsburgh, clobbering the Seahawks 48-10 to clinch an NFC wild-card berth. The Packers will play their first road playoff game since 2003.
NEXT MAN UP
Key injuries from Week 16:
TE Tony Gonzalez (calf), Atlanta: The Falcons crushed the Bills 31-3 to move to 8-7 and keep alive their chances of recording consecutive winning campaigns for the first time in their 44 seasons. But they also lost their star to a calf injury.
WR Steve Smith (arm), Carolina: The last play this season for the Panthers’ standout receiver was a 27-yard touchdown that helped crush the Giants. As Smith neared the goal line, he broke his left arm when he was hit by two defenders.
LB Rey Maualuga (ankle), Cincinnati: The Bengals’ fine rookie linebacker broke his left ankle during a 17-10 AFC North-clinching victory over the Chiefs. Rashad Jeanty, who started most of last season, replaces Maualaga.
RB Pierre Thomas (ribs), New Orleans: The Saints’ surprising top running back bruised ribs when he was tackled at the end of a 26-yard run during the second quarter against the Bucs and didn’t return.View Entire Story
By Elaine Donnelly
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