That was quite an entertaining football game between the San Diego Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. And perhaps not the last between the two this season as both teams appear playoff-bound.

The Chargers (11-3) won the game 27-24 and already have a spot in the playoffs. They clinched a postseason berth during the opening quarter based on other teams’ results on Sunday and then clinched the AFC West crown shortly after their game concluded when the Oakland Raiders upset the Denver Broncos.

The Bengals (9-5) are still in the driver’s seat in the AFC North despite the loss to the Chargers. And it’s hard not to anoint them the AFC’s third-best team behind the undefeated Indianapolis Colts and the Chargers.

Cincinnati put forth an emotional effort coming three days after the death of receiver Chris Henry. The Bengals battled back from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to tie the contest on Shayne Graham’s 34-yard field goal with 51 seconds left.

But the Chargers weren’t interested in folding. Philip Rivers moved the Chargers 46 yards on completions to Darren Sproles (11 yards), Vincent Jackson (20) and Malcom Floyd (15) to set up Nate Kaeding’s game-winning 52-yard field goal with three seconds left.

Kaeding’s kick — which would’ve been good from 60 yards — boosted the Chargers’ winning streak to nine games. San Diego has now won 17 consecutive games in the month of December.

Rivers passed for 308 yards and two touchdowns, both to Jackson (five receptions, 108 yards). Jackson went over the 1,000-yard mark and beat solid cornerback Leon Hall (the former Vista High standout) on both touchdown receptions. Jackson now has 1,097 receiving yards, one off the career-high total he had in 2008. He did reach new highs for receptions (63) and TD catches (nine) on Sunday.

Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer passed for 314 yards and two touchdowns. Chad Ochocinco had three catches for 79 yards and ran 26 yards with a backwards pass that goes into the books as a running play.

When Ochocinco burned Antonio Cromartie on a 49-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter, there were no crazy antics or skits. He dropped to both knees in the end zone and paid tribute to Henry, who tragically died in a freak accident during a domestic dispute with his fiance.

The Bengals will travel to New Orleans for Henry’s funeral, scheduled for Tuesday. After paying their respects to their teammate, they will need to move on as the cutthroat ways of the NFL make that a necessity.

The Baltimore Ravens (8-6) moved to within one game of Cincinnati and could overtake the Bengals by winning their final two games and having Cincinnati lose both its remaining games. Of course, the Kansas City Chiefs visit Cincinnati next Sunday so the most likely scenario is seeing the Bengals clinch the AFC North next weekend. The Bengals swept the Ravens this season so Cincinnati wins the division if the two teams tie.

As for the Chargers, they will face the Tennessee Titans on Christmas Night. The Titans have battled back from an 0-6 start to be one of six AFC teams with a 7-7 record. Currently, Baltimore and Denver are the wild-card teams with 8-6 records but a lot can happen over the next two weeks.

So the Titans are facing a win-or-else situation. That figures to mean a heavy workload for Chris Johnson, who has 1,730 yards and 11 touchdowns through 14 games. Johnson is vying to become just the sixth NFL running back to produce 2,000 rushing yards in a season.


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