Coming into the final weekend of regular season play, the Chargers needed a little divine intervention to break their three-year playoff drought. Enter the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals.
The Jets and Bengals provided the Chargers with belated Christmas gifts (beating Miami and Baltimore, respectively), allowing San Diego (9-7) to control its own destiny in its season finale at home with AFC West rival Kansas City.
Despite being down 24-14 in the second half, the Chargers rallied to take it to overtime, then won it on a Nick Novak field goal. The prize proved to be a trip to Cincinnati this coming Sunday and a meeting with the AFC North champion Bengals in the first round of the AFC playoffs.
As fans that were either in attendance last Sunday or watched on the tube know, Kansas City (11-5) could have very well extended San Diego's streak of missing the playoffs to four years. That was prevented, however, when Ryan Succop missed a 41-yard field goal with :08 remaining, giving San Diego new life.
As was reported on Monday, the NFL later admitted that officials blew the call, meaning there should have been a five-yard penalty against the Bolts for improperly lining up on the snap. Had that foul been called, Succop's try would have instead been 36 yards. The miss not only extended the game, but would later come back to haunt the Pittsburgh Steelers, as the black and gold would have been the sixth and final seed had San Diego lost.
Here Come the Bengals
With their playoff lives granted, the Chargers now turn their attention to the Bengals, a team that saddled San Diego with a 17-10 home loss on the first Sunday of December.
Although Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton has compiled some impressive numbers this season (more than 4,000 yards passing, 33 TD's), he threw four interceptions in the team's finale last Sunday, giving him 20 on the season.
Given just about everyone did not even expect the Bolts to make the post-season dance, San Diego can throw caution to the wind and play as if there is little or no pressure come Sunday in Paul Brown Stadium.
In some cases, a team with that kind of look and feel can be a very dangerous one indeed.