AFC West Look – 12/26

They were once invincible in December.

But the Super in December San Diego Chargers met their kryptonite on Sunday in Cincinnati.

How about 29 degrees at kickoff with a wind chill making it feel like 17 degrees. A dose of cold weather and the Cincinnati Bengals combined to crush the hopes of the Chargers making another December comeback. The Bengals 34-20 victory ended San Diego’s run as AFC West champions. They had won four division titles in a row, and five of the last six.

But they will watch the Chiefs in the playoffs this January, after finishing up their season in Denver against the Broncos. San Diego is now 8-7.

The Raiders also had a slight hope, but that went out the door with their 31-26 loss to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. They finish the season at Arrowhead Stadium against the Chiefs. Oakland is 7-8.

Denver had no hope, but they rose up and beat the Houston Texans 24-23 behind QB Tim Tebow. They’ll host the Chargers to end the year. They are 4-11.

Bengals 34, Chargers 20 @ Paul Brown Stadium

“Words can’t really explain how we feel right now,” Chargers safety Eric Weddle said. “Our season is done. It’s probably the worst feeling you can have.”

San Diego waited too long to get moving this season and December losses to Oakland and Cincinnati were too much in the effort to overcome the poor start of their season. It didn’t’ help that it was cold in Cincinnati, 29 degrees at the kickoff with a wind chill of 17. It was the coldest game for the Chargers since the AFC title game loss they suffered in New England in the 2007 playoffs.

The cold was a factor. WR Vincent Jackson fumbled a handoff on an end-around on San Diego’s opening play and chased it all the way back to the one-yard line. The series ended with P Mike Scifres shanking a 24-yard kick. Five plays later, Palmer threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham.

Palmer ended up throwing four TD passes against the Chargers defense.

Colts 31, Raiders 26 @ Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

When Jacoby Ford returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, it seemed to portend a long afternoon for Manning and the Colts in the Bay Area.

But it’s a run to the playoffs and Indy does not miss post-season action. They needed a pair of victories in their final games and that was their focus, one that Ford couldn’t break with his great return. Manning threw three TD passes and got help from his defense that allowed only a single Oakland TD on offense, that at the end of the game.

The Raiders managed only 80 rushing yards, with RB Darren McFadden gaining just 45 on 11 carries. QB Jason Campbell threw for 231 yards, but the speedy Oakland receivers group was held in check with only one receptions going for more than 20 yards.

Manning threw a pair of interceptions, but he also connected on TD passes with Pierre Garcon, Blair White and Jacob Tamme.

Broncos 24, Texans 23 @ Invesco Field

As the Broncos left the field at half-time of their game against the Texans down 17-0, the Denver faithful booed them. Unhappy with the season, not pleased with conservative play calling, the smallest crowd to watch a game at the stadium since it opened let everyone hear their displeasure.

But the Broncos didn’t go in the tank. With Tebow starting for the first time at home, it was his six-yard scramble with three minutes to play that ended the comeback from 17 points down at the half.

“Things weren’t going well early, but we kept fighting, kept believing in each other,” Tebow said.

He completed 16 of 29 passes for 308 yards, one TD and an interception. He also ran the ball 10 times for 27 yards.

“I’ve never seen a winner lose. He’s a winner,” said Denver CB Champ Bailey. “I expect him to win a lot of games as a pro quarterback.”

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