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Rivers, Chargers remain alive for AFC West title

Dec 22, 2008 - 1:18 AM TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) -- After being left for dead three weeks ago, Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers still have a chance to win the AFC West.

Rivers passed for 287 yards and a career-high four touchdowns Sunday as the Chargers kept alive their slim postseason hopes with a 41-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rivers completed 21-of-31 passes and Vincent Jackson hauled in seven receptions for 111 yards for the Chargers (7-8), who have won their last three contests to pull within one game of the first-place Denver Broncos (8-7) in the AFC West.

By virtue of their home loss to Buffalo on Sunday, the Broncos missed another opportunity to clinch the division title.

Denver, riding a two-game losing streak, will visit San Diego next weekend to compete for the AFC West crown. No team has ever missed the playoffs when leading its division by three games with three to play.

San Diego tight end Antonio Gates caught two of Rivers' touchdowns, covering 15 and 5 yards.

"We got into a rhythm early and the guys up front were outstanding in the pass protection," Rivers said. "We got into a little bit of a rhythm and when you can do that, it just feels like a jump shooter when you get going."

"Philip has been playing at a very high level and he got out of the pocket and tried to make something happen," Gates said. "With all due respect to Tampa Bay, this was about the San Diego Chargers today."

Since starting 9-3, the Buccaneers (9-6) have lost three consecutive games and have seen their playoff hopes greatly reduced. It was the most points allowed by the Bucs this season.

"I would just like to say that wasn't our best football today," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "But San Diego is an excellent, talented team. With their backs against the wall, they played a fine football game."

The Chargers led, 17-7, in the second quarter, but the Bucs rallied for a 24-20 lead with 5:05 remaining in the third quarter on Antonio Bryant's 71-yard touchdown catch from Jeff Garcia.

However, the Chargers answered with touchdowns on two of their next three possessions - Rivers' 5-yard pass to Gates and Rivers' 32-yard screen to Darren Sproles.

"I can't say enough about our guys in terms of the way they handled the last month, the way they prepared, the way they competed," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "Obviously that was one of our most complete games."

Antoine Cason sealed the victory with a 59-yard interception return for a touchdown with three minutes remaining.

"When he threw it, I was hoping for the tip up and when it happened, I just grabbed it and said I know what to do with this now," Cason said. "I went down there and got it and ran it in."

Garcia was 21-of-34 for 232 yards. He also was Tampa Bay's leading rusher with 45 yards on six carries and scored on a 7-yard run. Garcia, who continued playing after suffering a nose injury in the fourth quarter, left after throwing the interception to Cason.

"I've had better days," Garcia said. "We just have to refocus and try to finish off this last game of the regular season on a positive note. It's been very disappointing over the past three weeks to play the way we have and not finish games off the way we are capable of finishing."

Bryant had six catches for 127 yards, his third consecutive game with more than 100 yards receiving.

San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson carried 21 times for 90 yards in surpassing 1,000 yards rushing for an eighth consecutive season.

"I was getting a little worried that I wouldn't reach it," he said. "It has been tough to say the least, but I am happy that we got it done. It's just another something to be proud of."






  • 25
    roots
    Sweetness34 Added 5 roots

    Chargers 41, Buccaneers 24  FinalDec 21 8:32 PM


  • ** CONFIRMED **
    NFL
    SAN DIEGO 41
    TAMPA BAY 24 FINAL

    Dec 21 3:50 PM


  • NFL
    TD SDG
    ANTOINE CASON 59 YD INTERCEPTION RETURN
    (NATE KAEDING KICK)
    SAN DIEGO 41
    TAMPA BAY 24 3:07 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Chargers 41, Buccaneers 24  4th - 3:07Dec 21 3:43 PM


  • NFL
    TD SDG
    DARREN SPROLES 32 YD PASS FROM PHILIP RIVERS
    (NATE KAEDING KICK)
    SAN DIEGO 34
    TAMPA BAY 24 7:18 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Chargers 34, Buccaneers 24  4th - 7:18Dec 21 3:30 PM
  • 20
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    RUWTbot Added 15 roots (Close Finish)

    Chargers 27, Buccaneers 24  4th - 9:58Dec 21 3:25 PM


  • NFL
    TD SDG
    ANTONIO GATES 5 YD PASS FROM PHILIP RIVERS
    (NATE KAEDING KICK)
    SAN DIEGO 27
    TAMPA BAY 24 14:53 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Chargers 27, Buccaneers 24  4th - 14:53Dec 21 3:10 PM


  • NFL
    END, 3RD QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    SAN DIEGO 7 13 0 20
    TAMPA BAY 7 3 14 24 END, 3RD QTR
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: SDG - TD, BRANDON MANUMALEUNA 11 YD PASS FROM
    PHILIP RIVERS (NATE KAEDING KICK),
    9:56. Drive: 8 plays, 59 yards in
    3:56. Key plays: Rivers 15-yard
    pass to Gates to Tampa Bay 44;
    Tomli

    Dec 21 3:05 PM


  • NFL
    TD TAM
    ANTONIO BRYANT 71 YD PASS FROM JEFF GARCIA
    (MATT BRYANT KICK)
    SAN DIEGO 20
    TAMPA BAY 24 5:05 LEFT, 3RD QTR

    Chargers 20, Buccaneers 24  3rd - 5:05Dec 21 2:55 PM


  • NFL
    TD TAM
    JEFF GARCIA 7 YD RUN
    (MATT BRYANT KICK)
    SAN DIEGO 20
    TAMPA BAY 17 7:41 LEFT, 3RD QTR

    Chargers 20, Buccaneers 17  3rd - 7:41Dec 21 2:43 PM


  • NFL
    FG SDG
    NATE KAEDING 57 YD
    SAN DIEGO 20
    TAMPA BAY 10 0:00 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Chargers 20, Buccaneers 10  HalfDec 21 2:18 PM


  • NFL
    FG TAM
    MATT BRYANT 49 YD
    SAN DIEGO 17
    TAMPA BAY 10 0:17 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Chargers 17, Buccaneers 10  2nd - 0:17Dec 21 2:14 PM


  • NFL
    FG SDG
    NATE KAEDING 28 YD
    SAN DIEGO 17
    TAMPA BAY 7 5:32 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Chargers 17, Buccaneers 7  2nd - 5:32Dec 21 1:58 PM


  • NFL
    TD SDG
    ANTONIO GATES 15 YD PASS FROM PHILIP RIVERS
    (NATE KAEDING KICK)
    SAN DIEGO 14
    TAMPA BAY 7 13:26 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Chargers 14, Buccaneers 7  2nd - 13:26Dec 21 1:40 PM


  • NFL
    END, 1ST QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    SAN DIEGO 7 7
    TAMPA BAY 7 7 END, 1ST QTR
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: SDG - TD, BRANDON MANUMALEUNA 11 YD PASS FROM
    PHILIP RIVERS (NATE KAEDING KICK),
    9:46. Drive: 8 plays, 59 yards in
    3:56. Key plays: Rivers 15-yard
    pass to Gates to Tampa Bay 44;
    Tomli

    Dec 21 1:35 PM


  • NFL
    TD TAM
    B.J. ASKEW 1 YD RUN
    (MATT BRYANT KICK)
    SAN DIEGO 7
    TAMPA BAY 7 2:44 LEFT, 1ST QTR

    Chargers 7, Buccaneers 7  1st - 2:44Dec 21 1:28 PM


  • NFL
    TD SDG
    BRANDON MANUMALEUNA 11 YD PASS FROM PHILIP RIVERS
    (NATE KAEDING KICK)
    SAN DIEGO 7
    TAMPA BAY 0 5:14 LEFT, 1ST QTR

    Chargers 7, Buccaneers 0  1st - 5:14Dec 21 1:22 PM
  • 5
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    GREGnKY Added 5 roots

    Chargers vs. BuccaneersDec 21 10:34 AM