Final

Bengals 24

(9-5, 4-3 away)

Chargers 27

(11-3, 5-2 home)

Coverage: CBS

4:05 PM ET, December 20, 2009

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA 

1 2 3 4 T
CIN 3 10 0 1124
SD 7 7 10 327

Top Performers

Passing: C. Palmer (CIN) - 314 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: L. Tomlinson (SD) - 16 CAR, 59 YDS

Receiving: V. Jackson (SD) - 5 REC, 108 YDS, 2 TD

Kaeding's 52-yard FG beats grieving Bengals, clinches West for Chargers

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- By the time the San Diego Chargers could exhale, they had clinched their fourth straight AFC West title as well as pulling out a dramatic win over the grieving Cincinnati Bengals.

More from ESPN.com

The Bengals were not alone in their sorrow Sunday. Following their defeat of Cincinnati, the Chargers took time to reflect on the death of Chris Henry, Bill Williamson writes. Blog


Carson Palmer had never experienced anything like it, as the loss of Chris Henry hit the Bengals hard, John Clayton writes. Story

Yes, it was a crazy several minutes at Qualcomm late Sunday afternoon.

Nate Kaeding kicked a 52-yard field goal with 3 seconds left and the Chargers rallied for a 27-24 win over the Bengals, who got a tying 34-yard field goal by Shayne Graham 51 seconds earlier.

A few minutes after the Chargers (11-3) secured their ninth straight victory, and with several thousand fans still in the stadium, the Chargers clinched the division when Denver lost to Oakland.

"It's all kind of a blur," said Kaeding, who hadn't yet gotten a division championship cap until team president Dean Spanos walked by in the locker room and gave the kicker his.

Fast Facts

• The Chargers have now won 17 straight games in December and nine straight games overall.

• Antonio Gates had a TD catch -- his fourth in his last three games. He had two touchdown grabs in his first 10 games this season.

• Carson Palmer passed for 314 yards -- his first 300-yard game since the final week of 2007.

• The Bengals have now lost two straight games for the first time this season.

-- ESPN Stats & Information

Some Chargers watched on TV as the Broncos, who led the Chargers by 3 1/2 games on Oct. 19, lost 20-19 to the Raiders.

"It's an incredible feeling," star outside linebacker Shawne Merriman said.

The Chargers improved to 17-0 in December since 2006.

Kaeding's 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 Mruczkowski sprained an ankle.

"We just did what we had to do to get it done," said Rivers, who threw three touchdown passes, two to Vincent Jackson.

"Philip's the man. I wouldn't want anybody else under center there for us," said Kaeding, who added that it was one of his biggest kicks.

"There was a lot of adrenaline in that kind of situation, coming down to the wire and going for the win," Kaeding said. "Once it came off my foot, I knew it was good, and mayhem ensued from there."

San Diego clinched a playoff spot before halftime because of other results.

Cincinnati (9-5), which failed for the second straight week to clinch the AFC North, was playing three days after the death of receiver Chris 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.

"The main thing we want people to realize is that Chris is a guy who turned his life around and this football team had done the same thing," tackle Andre Whitworth said. "He signifies what we are."

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.

"It was a little empty feeling," Ochocinco said. "It was bigger than football without him. Today I played with an extra set of hands, an extra set of legs and an extra heart."

The Bengals wore decals with Henry's No. 15 on their helmets. Several Bengals fans brought signs remembering Henry, including a simple "RIP 15."

Palmer said he's never experienced four days like the Bengals have, calling Henry's death and then having to play a game "almost surreal." He said it won't sink in until the team attends Henry's funeral on Tuesday.

The Bengals appeared to be driving for a go-ahead touchdown, but then were lucky to get in their tying field goal.

On first-and-16 from the San Diego 25, Andre Caldwell caught a pass from Palmer, was hit by Eric Weddle and then linebacker Tim Dobbins used his helmet to knock the ball out of his hands and it sailed back to the 45, where Palmer jumped on it. Palmer got the Bengals into field goal range with two completions.

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.

Game notes


Jackson had five catches for 108 yards, giving him his second straight 1,000-yard season. ... Jammer injured a knee and Chargers DE Jacques Cesaire injured an elbow. ... During the week, Ochocinco said he wanted to fight Merriman. After Jammer was hurt in the fourth quarter, Ochocinco held the cornerback's hand, then spoke amicably with Merriman.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
CIN
SD
1st Downs1920
Passing 1st downs
1416
Rushing 1st downs
53
1st downs from Penalties
01
3rd down efficiency
7-155-11
4th down efficiency
0-00-0
Total Plays6360
Total Yards407366
Yards per play6.56.1
Total Drives1113
Passing293296
Comp - Att
27-4024-38
Yards per pass
7.37.8
Interceptions thrown
12
Sacks - Yards Lost
2-212-12
Rushing11470
Rushing Attempts
2120
Yards per rush
5.43.5
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-41-2
Penalties9-554-30
Turnovers12
Fumbles lost
00
Interceptions thrown
12
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession31:4628:14

Passing Leaders

CINC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Palmer27/403147.9212-21
SDC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Rivers24/383088.1322-12

Rushing Leaders

CINCARYDSAVGTDLG
Benson15533.5012
Johnson4358.8027
SDCARYDSAVGTDLG
Tomlinson16593.7013
Sproles3113.7012

Receiving Leaders

CINRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Foschi78211.70219
Ochocinco37926.31495
SDRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Jackson510821.62347
Floyd46315.80209

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERCINSD
sdTD10:06Antonio Gates 3 Yd Pass From Philip Rivers (Nate Kaeding Kick) 07
cinFG04:11Shayne Graham 26 Yd 37
SECOND QUARTERCINSD
cinTD13:00Chad Ochocinco 49 Yd Pass From Carson Palmer (Shayne Graham Kick) 107
sdTD03:12Vincent Jackson 21 Yd Pass From Philip Rivers (Nate Kaeding Kick) 1014
cinFG00:07Shayne Graham 25 Yd 1314
THIRD QUARTERCINSD
sdTD06:26Vincent Jackson 34 Yd Pass From Philip Rivers (Nate Kaeding Kick) 1321
sdFG01:02Nate Kaeding 33 Yd 1324
FOURTH QUARTERCINSD
cinTD12:37Laveranues Coles 2 Yd Pass From Carson Palmer (Carson Palmer Run For Two-Point Conversion) 2124
cinFG00:54Shayne Graham 34 Yd 2424
sdFG00:03Nate Kaeding 52 Yd 2427