In one of the most gut-wrenching, intense football games of the year, the San Diego Chargers squeaked out a win against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday to move the Chargers into the NFL playoffs.
Honestly, I have to say it was the most exciting NFL game I have ever seen in person.
It would take losses by both the Miami Dolphins and defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, a 10-point fourth quarter comeback, a missed Chiefs field goal with four seconds remaining in regulation play and a fake punt by the Chargers on their go-ahead drive to take the lead in overtime.
San Diego would eventually hold off the Chiefs to win 27-24.
A win by either the Ravens or the Dolphins would have eliminated the Chargers. A loss by the Chargers would have advanced the Pittsburgh Steelers to the playoffs.
That made the Chargers-Chiefs game meaningful and exciting.
It would take a solid performance by Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who finished with 229 yards passing and three touchdowns on the day, to guide them into the NFL playoffs.
Chargers running back Ryan Mathews also ran for a career high 144 yards on 24 carries.
But the Chargers weren’t flawless.
The Chiefs rested 20 of 22 starters on both offense and defense, making it appear as if it would be an easy win for San Diego.
It wasn’t easy.
San Diego gave up 200 yards passing to Chiefs backup QB Chase Daniel and 140 yards on the ground by both Daniel and backup running back Knile Davis.
The Chargers showed they still have a lot of work cut out for them.
The Chargers’ offense looked stagnant at times in the first half and will need to find its offense early against the Cincinnati Bengals, who they will play in Sunday’s wild card round.
The Chargers (9-7) will be facing a Bengals team (11-5) that is ranked third in the NFL in total defense.
The Chargers head into the playoffs with a four-game winning streak and are the hot team in the AFC.
The Chargers-Bengals game will be telecast on CBS, beginning at 10:05 a.m. Pacific time.
The Bengals are undefeated (8-0) this season at home.
2014 NFL Playoffs Wild Card Weekend Matchups
AFC Wild Card Game No. 1
Saturday 1:35 p.m. PT (NBV-TV)
Kansas City at Indianapolis
The Kansas City Chiefs started the NFL season 9-0 but finished a dismal 2-5 in their last seven games. Look for the Chiefs to give the ball to running back Jamaal Charles early in the game. Charles led the team in rushing and receiving yards and is the nucleus of the Chiefs offense. Indianapolis defensive end Robert Mathis led the NFL with 19.5 sacks this season and is a force to be reckoned with at the line of scrimmage. Look for Mathis to bring the pressure on Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and increase his sack total.
NFC Wild Card Game No. 2
Saturday 5:10 p.m. PT (NBC-TV)
New Orleans at Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Eagles were my pick for most improved NFC team at the beginning of the season. Incoming head coach Chip Kelly (from Oregon) has been the difference for Philadelphia and Nick Foles has proven to be the quarterback of the future for the Eagles. This game features two of the league’s top ranked total offenses and a fourth-ranked New Orleans team in total defense. But it also features an Eagles team ranked 28th in total defense. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees should have a prolific day passing and take the Saints to the next round of the playoffs.
Winner: New Orleans
AFC Wild Card Game No. 3
Sunday 10:05 p.m. PT (CBS-TV)
San Diego at Cincinnati
This game features a red-hot San Diego Chargers team riding a four-game win streak and a stingy Cincinnati Bengals defense ranked third in total defense. Cincinnati poses a tough matchup at wide receiver for San Diego’s secondary with Bengals wide outs Marvin Jones and A.J. Green. If the Chargers stand a chance, they will need to play better defensively than they did last week against the Chiefs. It’s a rematch of Week 13 when Cincinnati won in San Diego 17-10, but this game is in Cincinnati, where the Bengals are undefeated this season at home.
NFL Wild Card Game No. 4
Sunday 1:40 p.m. PT (FOX-TV)
San Francisco at Green Bay
Green Bay is a completely different team with Aaron Rodgers as their quarterback. With an injured Rodgers, the Packers’ went 2-4-1 during the season. Rodgers is healthy now and as always, will look to spread the ball around to his receivers. However, the defending NFC champion 49ers are stout at defense and are led by Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis at linebacker. San Francisco ranks fifth in total defense and will be looking to slow down Packers running back Eddie Lacy.
Winner: San Francisco