Chargers continue surprising NFL playoff run
Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers celebrates as he runs off the field after their NFL wild card playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, on January 5, 2014
And in the National Conference wild card game, the San Francisco 49ers used a 33-yard field goal as time ran out to edge the Green Bay Packers 23-20.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers played mistake-free ball in his team's surprising wild card round victory, which allows San Diego to advance to the next round where they will face the top-seeded Broncos in Denver.
"It was an outstanding team effort," said first-year Chargers head coach Mike McCoy. "We knew it was going to be a slugfest from the first snap all the way through the game."
Rivers threw for a modest 128 yards but connected with Ladarius Green for the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter that began a run of 20 unanswered points for the Chargers.
The loss was the first at home all season for the Bengals, whose post-season misery continues. Cincinnati has not won a playoff contest since 1991.
Dalton's game took a turn for the worse when it started snowing at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals' quarterback threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.
"It's disappointing. All the good stuff we did this year, to come out and not win this game, it hurts," said Dalton, who has lost all three of his postseason starts. "We didn't do enough to win."
The Chargers had everything go their way in week 17, as the Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens, the New York Jets beat the Miami Dolphins and they upended the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime to claim the AFC's final wild card spot.
The Chargers struggled on offence in the second quarter on Sunday, failing to even gain a first down.
But San Diego took a 14-10 lead with 6:46 remaining in the third by using a combination of passes and runs during a 10-play, 80-yard drive.
Green caught a four-yard pass from Rivers in the corner of the end zone and the Chargers settled for a pair field goals following two Dalton turnovers to extend the lead.
Ronnie Brown helped to seal the victory with a late 58-yard touchdown run for the Chargers.
San Francisco kicker Phil Dawson booted a 33-yard field goal as time expired to lift the 49ers to a win over the host Packers in frigid winter conditions at Lambeau Field.
It marked the second consecutive season the 49ers eliminated the Packers in playoffs.
"It worked out for us," 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick said.
Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby drilled a game-tying 24-yard field goal with just over five minutes to play.
That set the stage for Kaepernick to go to work as he utilized his passing and running game to move San Francisco down the field.
The versatile Kaepernick converted a third-and-10 from his own 31 with a 17-yard strike to Michael Crabtree before running 11 yards to the Green Bay 27 with just over a minute remaining.
Frank Gore then carried the ball on the next three plays, including a three-yard drive that gave San Francisco a first down at the 17.
Following another Gore run, the 49ers let the clock run down before calling a timeout with two seconds left and then clinched it on Dawson's 33-yard boot.
The 49ers advance to play Carolina in the divisional round next Sunday.
"It is win or go home so everyone is going to leave it on the line," said San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman.