Final

Chargers 20

(8-7, 2-5 away)

Bengals 34

(4-11, 3-5 home)

Coverage: CBS

4:05 PM ET, December 26, 2010

Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH 

1 2 3 4 T
SD 0 3 7 1020
CIN 7 6 0 2134

Top Performers

Passing: C. Palmer (CIN) - 269 YDS, 4 TD

Rushing: R. Mathews (SD) - 12 CAR, 55 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: J. Simpson (CIN) - 6 REC, 124 YDS, 2 TD

Bengals end Chargers' postseason hopes behind Carson Palmer's 4 TDs

Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Carson Palmer's near-perfect showing left San Diego out in the cold.

Palmer threw four touchdown passes in swirling snow -- two to Jerome Simpson -- and the Cincinnati Bengals snapped the Chargers' streak of four straight playoff appearances with a 34-20 victory on Sunday that was an ending in several ways.

The Chargers (8-7) froze up in their coldest game in nearly three years, repeatedly self-destructing on a raw, windy evening. The loss gave the AFC West title to Kansas City, which beat Tennessee 34-14 earlier in the day.

This one will leave San Diego chilled to the bone for a long time.

The West Coast team was one of the league's best finishers, having won 20 of its last 21 games in December. The Chargers were out of their element Sunday -- and now, out of the playoffs as well.

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

The Bengals (4-11) are ending one of their worst seasons with a few satisfying moments.

Palmer, a Southern California kid, led them to their second straight win with a cast of reserve receivers. His 59-yard touchdown to Simpson -- playing in place of the injured Chad Ochocinco -- highlighted a 21-point fourth quarter against the league's top-ranked defense.

Palmer finished with a career-best passer rating of 157.2, just shy of a perfect 158.3. He completed 16 of 21 for 269 yards without an interception.

"That's the finest game that Carson has played here," said Marvin Lewis, who may have coached his final game in Cincinnati.

After losing 10 in a row, matching the club record for futility, the Bengals have won back-to-back games in front of small home crowds. No surprise there: Cincinnati has won 18 of its last 23 home finales.

The Chargers have a habit of finishing fast and winning titles. This time, they took too long to get started, forcing them to win out. They couldn't do it in the unaccustomed cold -- 29 degrees at the kickoff with a wind chill of 17. It was their coldest game since they dropped the AFC title game in New England at the end of the 2007 season.

The Chargers pretended they were plenty warm. Several came onto the field in blue shorts and sleeveless shirts for pregame warmups in a driving snow.

By the kickoff, they were well-chilled.

Receiver Vincent Jackson fumbled a handoff on a reverse on San Diego's opening play and had to chase it all the way back to the 1-yard line. The series ended with Mike Scifres shanking a 24-yard punt. Five plays later, Palmer threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham.

It would be that kind of day for the team from southern California.

Philip Rivers came into the game with a career passing rating of 100 in December, the best in league history. He was 27 of 40 for 256 yards with a touchdown and an interception that set up one of the Bengals' fourth-quarter touchdowns.

"It's tough anytime you're eliminated from a chance of playing for the postseason," Rivers said. "It's something I haven't dealt with since I've been playing here. This was the final straw."

Palmer, who won the 2002 Heisman Trophy at USC, has been throwing to a much different group of receivers the last two games. Terrell Owens is recovering from knee surgery, and Ochocinco was inactive Sunday with a bad ankle.

Simpson, a second-round pick in 2008, had a career-high six catches for 124 yards. Andre Caldwell had four catches for 87 yards, and Gresham had four for 56 yards and a touchdown.

Without Owens and Ochocinco -- the self-described Batman and Robin -- the passing game was super.

"They ran great routes and made big plays," Palmer said. "They made some of the biggest plays we've had all season."

Game notes


Chargers RB Mike Tolbert was carted off the field after putting his head down on a first-quarter run, leaving him face-down and motionless. Coach Norv Turner said he has a sprained neck and shoulder and should be fine. Tolbert gave a thumbs-up sign as he left the field. ... Rivers is 21-2 while starting regular-season games in December and January. The Chargers also lost at home to Oakland on Dec. 5. ... Simpson has played the last two weeks because T.O. and Ochocinco were hurt. Before those two games, he had only one career catch in 2½ seasons.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
SD
CIN
1st Downs2318
Passing 1st downs
1613
Rushing 1st downs
45
1st downs from Penalties
30
3rd down efficiency
6-138-14
4th down efficiency
0-11-2
Total Plays6359
Total Yards313371
Yards per play5.06.3
Total Drives1212
Passing249269
Comp - Att
27-4016-21
Yards per pass
6.212.8
Interceptions thrown
10
Sacks - Yards Lost
1-70-0
Rushing64102
Rushing Attempts
2238
Yards per rush
2.92.7
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-34-4
Penalties1-56-57
Turnovers21
Fumbles lost
11
Interceptions thrown
10
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession29:5130:09

Passing Leaders

SDC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Rivers27/402566.4111-7
CINC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Palmer16/2126912.8400-0

Rushing Leaders

SDCARYDSAVGTDLG
Mathews12554.6123
Sproles382.706
CINCARYDSAVGTDLG
Benson24522.2011
Scott11504.5110

Receiving Leaders

SDRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Naanee45914.80197
Sproles8556.901310
CINRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Simpson612420.72597
Caldwell48721.80445

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERSDCIN
cinTD10:19Jermaine Gresham 3 Yd Pass From Carson Palmer (Clint Stitser Kick) 07
SECOND QUARTERSDCIN
cinTD12:54Jerome Simpson 10 Yd Pass From Carson Palmer (Pat Failed) 013
sdFG01:15Nate Kaeding 20 Yd 313
THIRD QUARTERSDCIN
sdTD05:45Ryan Mathews 23 Yd Run (Nate Kaeding Kick) 1013
FOURTH QUARTERSDCIN
cinTD13:00Jordan Shipley 3 Yd Pass From Carson Palmer (Clint Stitser Kick) 1020
sdFG07:18Nate Kaeding 28 Yd 1320
cinTD06:25Jerome Simpson 59 Yd Pass From Carson Palmer (Clint Stitser Kick) 1327
cinTD03:54Bernard Scott 10 Yd Run (Clint Stitser Kick) 1334
sdTD01:27Kelley Washington 5 Yd Pass From Philip Rivers (Nate Kaeding Kick) 2034