Final

Chargers 10

(7-8, 2-5 away)

Lions 38

(10-5, 5-3 home)

Coverage: CBS

4:05 PM ET, December 24, 2011

Ford Field, Detroit, MI 

1 2 3 4 T
SD 0 0 10 010
DET 10 14 7 738

Top Performers

Passing: M. Stafford (DET) - 373 YDS, 3 TD

Rushing: R. Mathews (SD) - 11 CAR, 58 YDS

Receiving: C. Johnson (DET) - 4 REC, 102 YDS, 1 TD

Lions bounce Chargers in romp to clinch 1st playoff berth since 1999

Associated Press

DETROIT -- Matthew Stafford led a victory-lap parade around the perimeter of Ford Field, high-fiving fans that have been waiting since 1999 for the Detroit Lions to make the playoffs.

With the crowd chanting "Play-offs! Play-offs!" as the final few minutes ticked away, Detroit clinched a postseason spot thanks to Stafford's three touchdown passes in a 38-10 win over the San Diego Chargers on Saturday.

Stafford appeared to be touched by the face-to-face interaction with fans hanging over the railing to reach his raised right hand.

"You could just get a sense of how much it meant to them," Stafford said. "It was fun to give them that kind of joy."

The Lions (10-5) have won three straight after a seven-game slump to earn an NFC wild card, turning around the franchise after it was bad enough just three years ago to become the league's only 0-16 team.

It was coach Jim Schwartz's idea to reach out and touch the fans.

"There's going to be a time that we don't celebrate getting to the playoffs, but it's not going to be tonight," Schwartz said. "It's been a long time coming."

No one has been waiting longer than owner William Clay Ford.

Ford, whose first season leading the franchise was in 1964, was handed a keepsake in the jubilant locker room.

"We gave him the game ball," said center Dominic Raiola, who endured a string of miserable seasons after Detroit drafted him in 2001.

After Raiola's postgame news conference, he gave Stafford a bear hug.

"I'm excited for them, more than for myself and some of the other young guys," the 23-year-old Stafford said.

Music blared in Detroit's locker room, where players hugged teammates and anyone else who crossed their paths. Smiles might've outnumbered beads of sweat after a lopsided win that ended San Diego's playoff hopes.

According to the Chargers (7-8), they were eliminated from playoff contention. San Diego will miss the postseason for a second straight year after making it five times in a six-season stretch.

And, that might cost coach Norv Turner his job.

"I've been concentrating every week as well as I can on getting this team ready to play and doing the things we need to do," Turner said. "We all know that's something that's discussed at the end of the year."

San Diego stayed in playoff contention deep into December by winning three straight games, but couldn't overcome its midseason losing streak.

"When you lose six in a row in this league, you're probably not going to the postseason, but we fought our way back in it," Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. "You're hanging your hat on running the table, and going to beat playoff teams on the road, it's tough."

Knowing they could move into the postseason simply by winning, the Lions held San Diego scoreless until midway through the third quarter, when Rivers threw an 11-yard pass to Malcom Floyd to make it 24-7.

Detroit, though, closed strong to restore the rout.

The Lions and Buffalo Bills started the season with the league's longest playoff droughts at 11 seasons. Detroit's wait is over because a decades-long search for a franchise quarterback ended with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft.

"That's probably the key to a franchise is having a good quarterback and we'll hold onto him for a while," Schwartz said.

Coming off the league's only 0-16 season, Detroit selected Stafford and kept him healthy for the first time this season.

Stafford was almost perfect in the first half against San Diego, completing 21 of 26 passes for 260 yards with three TDs. He capped the first drive with a 7-yard pass to Brandon Pettigrew, threw a 3-yarder to Kevin Smith in the second quarter and connected with Calvin Johnson from 14 yards just before halftime to give the Lions a 24-0 lead.

"His numbers at halftime were outrageous," Raiola said. "He's the real deal."

Stafford finished with 373 yards passing to give him 4,518 this year, breaking Scott Mitchell's single-season team record from 1995. Perhaps not coincidently, that season marked the last time the Lions had double digits in wins.

The Lions will go for their 11th victory and try to improve their playoff positioning on Jan. 1 against Green Bay, a team they haven't beaten on the road since 1991.

The Chargers needed to extend their winning streak to four games to keep their postseason hopes alive, but the loss and Cincinnati's victory dashed them.

They had chances to come back.

Eric Weddle recovered an onside kick after San Diego finally scored in the third quarter, but the Chargers stalled inside the Lions 5. Cornerback Chris Houston broke up a pass in the end zone and the Chargers had to settle for Nick Novak's field goal and a 14-point deficit.

Detroit's potent offense quickly gained 48 yards on a third-quarter drive with passes to Nate Burleson and Johnson, setting up Smith's 6-yard TD and a 31-10 lead.

The Chargers then drove to the Detroit 2 and turned over the ball on downs, firing up its sideline and the fans who have been waiting a long time for a season like this one. It's the first time the Lions have made the playoffs since Ford Field opened in 2002.

"This is an accomplishment," Schwartz said. "It's a big step for our team and our organization."

San Diego, meanwhile, has taken another step back.

Rivers was 28 of 53 for 299 yards with a too-late TD and two interceptions, the second of which defensive end Cliff Avril snagged with his right hand and returned 4 yards to make it 38-10 late in the game.

Antonio Gates had four receptions to give him 588 in his career, breaking the Chargers record of 586 set by Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner, in his hometown of Detroit in front of family and friends.

"They were all here," Gates said. "It's just disappointing that we couldn't get a victory along with me crossing that milestone."

Game notes


Johnson matched a single-season team record with 15 TD receptions. ... Chargers LB Na'il Diggs, who had trouble defending Pettigrew, left the game in the third quarter with cramps in his right leg.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
SD
DET
1st Downs2024
Passing 1st downs
1419
Rushing 1st downs
65
1st downs from penalties
00
3rd down efficiency
6-159-13
4th down efficiency
2-30-0
Total Plays7062
Total Yards367440
Yards per play5.27.1
Total Drives118
Passing299353
Comp-Att
28-5329-36
Yards per pass
5.69.1
Interceptions thrown
20
Sacks-Yards Lost
0-03-20
Rushing6887
Rushing Attempts
1723
Yards per rush
4.03.8
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-34-4
Penalties1-103-8
Turnovers20
Fumbles lost
00
Interceptions thrown
20
Defensive / Special Teams TDs01
Possession27:3932:21

Passing Leaders

SDC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Rivers28/532995.6120-0
DETC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Stafford29/3637310.4303-20

Rushing Leaders

SDCARYDSAVGTDLG
Mathews11585.3011
Tolbert571.406
DETCARYDSAVGTDLG
Smith15493.3121
Morris5224.408

Receiving Leaders

SDRECYDSAVGTDLG
Floyd69515.8130
Jackson24120.5023
DETRECYDSAVGTDLG
Johnson410225.5146
Burleson68313.8030

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERSDDET
detTD10:57Brandon Pettigrew 7 Yard Pass From Matthew Stafford (Jason Hanson Kick is Good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 74 yds, 4:08
07
detFG0:38Jason Hanson 50 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 13 plays, 65 yds, 6:30
010
SECOND QUARTERSDDET
detTD7:16Kevin Smith 3 Yard Pass From Matthew Stafford (Jason Hanson Kick is Good)
Drive info: 11 plays, 87 yds, 5:16
017
detTD0:36Calvin Johnson 14 Yard Pass From Matthew Stafford (Jason Hanson Kick is Good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 74 yds, 4:22
024
THIRD QUARTERSDDET
sdTD8:43Malcom Floyd 11 Yard Pass From Philip Rivers (Nick Novak Kick is Good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 57 yds, 2:04
724
sdFG4:57Nick Novak 22 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 10 plays, 43 yds, 3:45
1024
detTD0:20Kevin Smith 6 Yard Run (Jason Hanson Kick is Good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 80 yds, 4:37
1031
FOURTH QUARTERSDDET
detTD2:33Cliff Avril 4 Yard Interception Return (Jason Hanson Kick is Good)
Drive info: 1 plays, 13 yds, 0:23
1038

Research Notes

Calvin Johnson is one of seven wide receivers in NFL history to accumulate more than 45 touchdowns and 5,500 yards in the first five years of their career. Johnson will be at Green Bay next Sunday. He will have a chance to become just the fourth wide receiver to catch at least 50 touchdowns in their first five seasons.
  [+]
Only two Lions receivers have surpassed 1,400 yards receiving in one season since 1960. Herman Moore accomplished this in 1995 and Calvin Johnson did it this season. If he has 145 yards or more receiving next Sunday it would be the most receiving yards by any Lions player in more than 50 years. It is no coincidence before they won their 10th game on Saturday, the last time they had a 10 win season was in 1995.
  [+]
Since 1960 only three NFL quarterbacks 23 years old or younger have thrown for over 4,500 yards in a single season. This feat has not been accomplished in over 15 years, but Matthew Stafford joins Dan Marino and Drew Bledsoe as the only quarterbacks to reach 4,500 yards in the last 50 years.
  [+]
Matthew Stafford and the Lions defeated the Chargers 38-10 as he broke the record for the most passing yards in a single season by any Lions quarterback. He also has thrown 10 multiple passing touchdown games in this season, tying the Lions mark since 1960 with Scott Mitchell who accomplished this in 1995. Stafford is just 23 years old and will get an opportunity to break this record next Sunday at Green Bay.
  [+]
Matthew Stafford was 10 of 14 (71.4 percent) for 224 yards and a touchdown when throwing at least 11 air yards downfield Saturday against the Chargers. That's the most completions and the second-highest completion percentage for Stafford in his career on such throws.

StaffordMatthew Stafford threw for 373 yards and set a Lions record for the most passing yards in a season (4,518), breaking the mark set by Scott Mitchell in 1995.

  [+]

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