Chargers stop Raiders, keep playoff hopes alive

Jay Paris, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Chargers have their eyes on a playoff berth for one more week.
Considering where they sat three weeks ago, that's an encouraging sight.
"If we do find a way to get in, we have weathered and had experience in close games,'' Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. "We will be tested and are ready to see what happens.''
First the surging Chargers, a 26-13 winner over the visiting Oakland Raiders on Sunday, have to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in next week's finale.
The teams the Chargers are chasing for the AFC's final playoff spot, the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens, have to lose as well.
"I don't care how you get into the tournament,'' Chargers running back Danny Woodhead said. "As long as you get in.''
The Chargers (8-7) won their third straight game for the first time this season,
Rivers threw a go-ahead, 4-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen to remain alive in the playoff race by overcoming three turnovers.
It was the Chargers' third consecutive win and the Raiders fifth straight loss.
The Chargers are among the league's hottest teams, but it remains to be seen if they'll be playing in January. Losses to weaker teams like the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins and Raiders have them in this predicament.
"We want to be in a better position but we still have playoff chances going into Week (17) and that's something to be proud of,'' safety Eric Weddle said. "We also still have a chance to do something special. I know no one wants to play us right now, that's for sure.''
The Raiders had their chances Sunday, but they didn't take full advantage of two Chargers fumbles and a Rivers interception. The Raiders also were flagged 12 times and were but 4-for-13 (31 percent) on third downs.
"We had too many penalties and third-down was critical in this game,'' Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "We couldn't capitalize enough to win the football game.''
It was a day for scoreboard watching at Qualcomm Stadium, as the Chargers needed help to keep their postseason aspirations in play.
Early in the afternoon, the Chargers got an assist when the Bills defeated the Dolphins. The Patriots then thumped the Ravens and the dominoes were falling in the Chargers' favor.
"It's a one-game season for all three of us,'' said Weddle, who had an interception. "Hopefully things will continue to go our way.
Allen's 4-yard, third-quarter scoring catch eased the Chargers in front 17-10. Nick Novak added three field goals in a second half dominated by the Chargers.
The Raiders (4-11) pulled even 10-10 after the Chargers committed their third turnover late in the first half.
Allen muffed a punt recovered by Shelton Johnson at the Chargers' 16. Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 20-yard field goal in the half's final minute.
Weddle said that defensive stand was critical.
"Really the series of the game was us holding them to a field goal at the end of the half,'' he said. "That gave us some momentum. We made it interesting for a while, but the better team won today.''
Safety Charles Woodson said the Raiders were confident after two quarters.
"We were right there in the game,'' he said.
The usually reliable connection between center Nick Hardwick and Rivers hit a snag earlier in the second quarter. Hardwick snapped the ball to Rivers in the shot-gun formation, but Rivers wasn't looking. The ball was pounced on by linebacker Miles Burris and the Raiders didn't squander their good fortune.
Running back Darren McFadden converted the turnover with a 5-yard touchdown rush to give the Raiders a 7-3 lead. McFadden's scamper was set up by a 37-yard reception by tight end Mychal Rivera.
But the Chargers regained the advantage thanks to the Raiders' generosity -- and a stellar play by Weddle.
It was Weddle's acrobatic interception of quarterback Matt McGloin's pass which gave the Chargers the ball at the Raiders' 20-yard line. Running back Ryan Mathews' 7-yard run pushed the Chargers ahead, 10-7.
Mathews finished with a game-high 99 yards on 25 carries.
Rivers was 19 of 29 for 201 yards and a score, which was better than a McGloin (20 of 36, 206 yards and a pick).
The Chargers scored first when marching 82 yards in their opening possession, which was capped by Novak's 27-yard field goal, his first of four in the game.
NOTES: Raiders RB Darren McFadden, active after missing six games with a hamstring injury, scored in the second quarter. His rushing touchdown was the 23rd of his career, ninth all-time in franchise history. ... Raiders head coach Dennis Allen was the Broncos' defensive coordinator 2011, the same year Chargers head coach Mike McCoy was Denver's offensive coordinator. ... Despite temperatures in the 60s, Chargers QB Philip Rivers wore a glove on his left hand. ... Chargers TE John Phillips exited in the first quarter with a knee injury and didn't return.

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