Chargers clinch division with win over grieving Bengals
By BERNIE WILSON, AP Sports Writer
SAN DIEGO (AP) Nate Kaeding kicked a 52-yard field goal with 3 seconds left and the playoff-bound San Diego Chargers pulled out a dramatic 27-24 win over the grieving Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
The winning kick came after Philip Rivers moved the Chargers 46 yards in 51 seconds with no timeouts and backup center Dennis Norman snapping after Scott Mruckzkowski was injured.
A few minutes after the final gun, the Chargers clinched their fourth straight AFC West title when Denver lost 20-19 to Oakland.
San Diego (11-3) won its ninth straight game and clinched a playoff spot before halftime because of other results. The Bolts improved to 17-0 in December dating to 2006.
The Bengals (9-5) failed for the second straight week to clinch the AFC North.
Cincinnati, playing three days after the death of receiver Chris Henry, had tied the game at 24 on Shayne Graham's 34-yard field goal with 54 seconds left.
The Bengals were lucky to get in their tying field goal.
Two plays earlier, Andre Caldwell caught a pass from Carson Palmer, was hit by Eric Weddle and then linebacker Tim Dobbins popped the ball out of his hands and it sailed back to the 45, where Palmer jumped on it.
The Bengals dedicated the rest of the season to Henry. He died Thursday, a day after falling out of the back of a pickup truck during what police described as a domestic dispute with his fiancee in Charlotte, N.C. Henry was on injured reserve and out for the season.
After Chad Ochocinco caught a 49-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to give the Bengals a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter, the receiver got down on both knees and touched his heart with his right hand.
The Bengals wore decals with Henry's No. 15 on their helmets. Several Bengals fans brought signs remembering Henry, including a simple "RIP 15."
Rivers threw three touchdown passes, two to Vincent Jackson.
Trailing 14-13 midway through the third quarter, Palmer missed Ochocinco and the ball went right to cornerback Quentin Jammer. Two plays later, Jackson got behind cornerback Leon Hall to haul in a 34-yard TD pass that put San Diego up 21-13.
Kaeding added a 33-yard field goal for an 11-point lead.
Keith Rivers intercepted Philip Rivers early in the fourth quarter to set up Palmer's 2-yard TD pass to Laveranues Coles and Palmer's conversion run to make it 24-21.
The Chargers led 14-13 at halftime. Rivers threw TD passes of 3 yards to Antonio Gates and 21 yards to Jackson.
Ochocinco had his 49-yard TD catch, and the Bengals twice had to settle for field goals by Graham after drives bottled up inside the Chargers' 10-yard line.