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(Sunday, December 20th)
Final Score: San Diego 27, Cincinnati 24
San Diego, CA (Sports Network) - Nate Kaeding kicked a 52-yard field goal with three seconds left in regulation, as San Diego overcame blowing an 11-point fourth quarter lead and posted a thrilling 27-24 victory over the heavy- hearted Bengals at Qualcomm Stadium.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers completed 24-of-38 passes for 308 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Vincent Jackson had 108 yards and two scores on five receptions for San Diego (11-3), which secured its fourth straight AFC West title and have won an NFL-record 17 consecutive games in the month of December. The Chargers have won nine in a row overall.
"We didn't win all nine of them on one Sunday," Rivers said. "We bought into and really focused on the one game at a time. Let's not worry about where we stand in the division. Let's not worry about what everybody thinks about us. Let's just go play. It's a long season. We've done that now for nine straight weeks."
San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson had 59 yards on 16 carries and caught four passes for 58 yards.
"This one is kind of special because of how Denver started," Tomlinson said. "We kept going and found ourselves winning the division today."
Carson Palmer threw for a season-high 314 yards and two touchdowns on 27-of-40 efficiency for the Bengals (9-5), who have lost two straight.
"I thought both side of the football we had a lull and it ended up costing us the football game," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "We need to do a better job at the end getting stops."
The crestfallen franchise played for the first time since the unfortunate death of wide receiver Chris Henry, who passed away Thursday morning from injuries sustained after falling out of the back of a pickup truck the previous day. Cincinnati and San Diego held a moment of silence in memory of Henry prior to the game. A No. 15 emblem adorned the helmets of the Bengals players. Henry's funeral is scheduled for Tuesday.
"It's been an interesting four days, four days that I've never experienced anything like it," Palmer said. "I've been fortunate enough not to experience tragedy like we experienced this week, but at the same time it's almost surreal. I almost don't believe it until I see him on Tuesday. I think it will really hit home for myself and a number of the other guys."
An interception by Cincinnati linebacker Keith Rivers resulted in a two-yard scoring play between Palmer and Laveranues Coles early in the fourth quarter. Palmer ran for the two-point conversion and the Bengals trailed 24-21.
Cincinnati got the ball back at its own three following a punt, and Palmer guided the team into enemy territory. On 1st-and-16 from the Chargers 25, Andre Caldwell pulled in a short toss, but San Diego linebacker Tim Dobbins jarred the ball loose.
Palmer recovered the fumble at the 45. After completing a six-yard pass to J.P. Foschi on second down, Palmer lined up in the shotgun and hooked up with Quan Cosby for a 23-yard gain. Although the completion did not move the chains, the Bengals were in position to attempt a game-tying field goal. Shayne Graham came on and drilled a 34-yarder through the uprights with 54 seconds remaining.
The Chargers began the ensuing drive at the their own 20. Rivers threw an 11- yard pass to Darren Sproles and quickly spiked the ball to stop the clock. He then found Jackson for 20 yards at the Cincinnati 49. Two plays later, Malcolm Floyd made a catch and was able to get out of bounds at the 34, setting up the game-winning kick.
"Going that way you have a little bit of a breeze behind you most of the time," said Kaeding. "You have to grab a hold of it, slow yourself down and put a good swing on it."
Sproles returned the game's opening kickoff to his own 45-yard line. Rivers capped the 11-play drive with a three-yard toss to Antonio Gates for early 7-0 lead.
The Bengals' first series ended with Graham converting a 26-yard field goal. After the Chargers were forced to punt, Palmer hit Chad Ochocinco streaking down the left sideline for a 49-yard touchdown two minutes into the second quarter. Ochocinco dropped to one knee in the end zone and looked up to the heavens, paying tribute to his fallen teammate.
Jackson made a diving snag for a 21-yard touchdown and a 14-10 San Diego advantage with 3:12 remaining in the frame. Graham then booted a 25-yarder in the waning moments of the first half.
Following the break, Palmer was picked off by San Diego cornerback Quentin Jammer, who was tackled at the Cincinnati 40. It didn't take the Chargers long to capitalize on the turnover as Jackson hauled in a 34-yard TD pass.
A 33-yard Kaeding field goal gave San Diego a 24-13 lead with 62 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Foschi made seven receptions for 82 yards, while Ochocinco totaled 79 yards on three grabs...Cedric Benson gained 53 yards on 15 carries for Cincinnati...San Diego visits Tennessee on Christmas night...The Bengals host Kansas City next Sunday.
12/20 21:59:27 ET
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