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(Sunday, January 17th)
Final Score: NY Jets 17, San Diego 14
San Diego, CA (Sports Network) - Shonn Greene's 53-yard touchdown scamper midway through the fourth quarter proved to be the difference, as the Jets stymied the high-octane Chargers just enough to steal a 17-14 decision in an AFC divisional playoff meeting at Qualcomm Stadium.
Thanks in part to three missed field goals from San Diego's Nate Kaeding, New York won the right to face the top-seeded Colts next Sunday in the AFC championship game in Indianapolis. That's where the Jets earned a 29-15 win back in Week 16, when the then-undefeated Colts rested their starters in the second half.
Greene, who rushed for 135 yards and a score in last weekend's wild-card win over the Bengals, ran for 128 yards on 23 carries to add to his rookie lure in New York, which has won consecutive playoff games for the first time since the 1982 season.
Mark Sanchez wasn't asked to do much but tossed a go-ahead fourth quarter touchdown to Dustin Keller and ended with 100 yards and an interception on 12- of-23 efficiency for New York, which reached the conference title game for the first time since the 1998 campaign.
San Diego was held to a season-low point total and a mere 61 yards on the ground.
Philip Rivers rushed for a touchdown and tossed another score to Kris Wilson but had two costly interceptions for the Chargers, who fell to 2-5 in their last seven divisional round contests. Rivers had 298 yards passing, 111 of which went to Vincent Jackson and 93 to Antonio Gates.
"We just didn't play well enough to win. They outplayed us," said Rivers, who led the club to an AFC-best 28.4 points per game in the regular season. "We just didn't get it done."
Kaeding, who missed a 40-yard field goal in overtime in a 2004 first-round playoff loss to the Jets, added to his postseason misery with an 0-for-3 effort on Sunday.
The AFC West-champion Chargers, winners of 11 straight coming in, outgained the Jets, 212-99, in the first half but only led 7-0 at halftime.
New York dictated the flow of the game the rest of the way with Greene's hard- nosed running and Sanchez's timely passing.
The visitors got on the board via Jay Feely's 46-yard field goal 4:15 into the third quarter, capping an eight-play, 32-yard drive.
Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer made up for a pass interference flag on the previous Jets drive by picking off a tipped Sanchez pass and returning it to the Jets 38-yard line with 6 1/2 minutes left in the third.
San Diego, which gained five total yards in the third quarter, failed to take advantage, as Rivers' jump ball to Jackson bounced off the receiver's hands and legs before landing in Darrelle Revis' arms as he lay on the ground at the 17-yard line.
The Jets didn't do much with the ball, but Steve Weatherford's 51-yard punt pinned the hosts at their own four. On the second play of the ensuing possession, an apparent miscommunication between Rivers and Gates resulted in an easy interception for Jim Leonhard, who returned the pick to the 16.
A personal foul on Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips on the final play of the third quarter gave the Jets first-and-goal, and on third down from the two, Sanchez bought time with his legs and hit Keller on the run in the right corner of the end zone 1:25 into the final stanza for a 10-7 lead.
"Dustin just improvised a little bit on [the route]," recalled Sanchez. "I felt exactly what he was doing. We were just on the same page."
Rivers was sacked twice in a three-play span on the next drive, the latter of which ended in 10-yard loss back to their own 33 to force a punt.
After Sanchez hit Jerricho Cotchery on a seven-yard hitch to get a first down on 3rd-and-4, Greene busted through the line and shook off Eric Weddle's arm tackle deep in the secondary en route to a 53-yard TD at the 7:17 mark.
The Chargers finally got rolling before having to settle for a field goal try, and Kaeding failed to make it a seven-point game by pushing his 40-yard attempt wide right, his third miss of the game.
The Jets failed to muster a first down, though the Chargers used two of their timeouts during the three-and-out.
Jackson made an acrobatic 37-yard grab to get to the New York 35 and the Chargers overcame an unsportsmanlike penalty call on Jackson when he kicked a challenge flag. Jackson had a 12-yard reception to set up Rivers' one-yard sneak to cut the deficit to 17-14 with 2:14 remaining.
With just one timeout left, the Chargers opted for the onsides kick, and Jets safety Kerry Rhodes came down with the tipped pigskin.
Facing 4th-and-1 with 1:09 on the clock, Jets head coach Rex Ryan called timeout and went for the game-clinching first down, which Thomas Jones rushed for right up the middle to send the New York sideline into a frenzy.
"We know [the Colts are] an unbelievable football team," Ryan said of next week's game. "We're going to play our best and they are going to play their best and we'll see what happens."
The Chargers reached Jets territory twice in the opening quarter but came away without any points on both occasions.
Kaeding, who had made 67 consecutive kicks inside 40 yards, hooked a 36-yard try wide left midway through the frame, and Rivers later had a pass knocked down by Revis on 3rd-and-4 from the 36, forcing a punt.
San Diego opened the game's scoring when Wilson was left uncovered in the middle of the end zone for an easy 13-yard TD 2:43 into the second stanza.
New York, which had a fumble recovery overturned by replay, finally moved the chains on its next two touches, but ended up punting in Chargers territory.
Kaeding's 57-yard attempt just before halftime was well short, keeping it a 7-0 game despite the lopsided difference in yardage.
"I'm not going to put it on Nate," said Chargers head coach Norv Turner, whose team was penalized 10 times for 87 yards. "You'd like to be playing your best games in January, and for whatever reason we did not do that today."
Greene's TD was the longest run in Jets postseason history...Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis left the game with a hand injury in the first quarter...The Chargers were never held under 20 points during the regular season, and scored 30 or more six times during their 11-game winning streak...The Jets are 7-1 over their last eight games...LaDainian Tomlinson gained 24 yards on 12 carries for San Diego, which received 33 yards on three carries from Darren Sproles...Jones gained 41 yards on 14 carries, while Braylon Edwards led the Jets with 41 yards on two catches...Kaeding missed three field goals on 35 tries this season.
01/17 21:23:21 ET
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