Chargers 23, Redskins 20
SAN DIEGO (AP)
The San Diego Chargers head into the playoffs on an 11-game winning streak, courtesy in large part to their backups.
Jim Zorn faces unemployment after yet another Washington Redskins loss.
Billy Volek threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to fullback Mike Tolbert with 35 seconds left to rally San Diego to a 23-20 win over the Redskins on Sunday in Zorn's last game as their coach.
The Redskins (4-12) plan to fire Zorn on Monday, an official within the NFL told The Associated Press during Sunday's game. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because no formal announcement has been made. Zorn's dismissal has been expected for months.
Zorn said he hasn't been told he's being fired.
``I'm still reeling from this loss. Anything that I say about what my future here would just be babbling along,'' he said.
The AFC West champion Chargers (13-3) already clinched the AFC's No. 2 playoff seed and a first-round bye and had nothing to play for except to avoid injuries. After the starters went out, the game had the feel of an exhibition.
San Diego deactivated five starters who'd been playing hurt, and quickly pulled most starters, including Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers, running back LaDainian Tomlinson and the offensive line.
``You work hard to get to this point,'' said Chargers coach Norv Turner, who was fired by the Redskins after 13 games in the 2000 season. ``You work hard to position yourself. You work hard to get the bye and the Home game. Now we want to take advantage of that.''
Those sitting out to heal were outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, wide receiver Vincent Jackson, fullback Jacob Hester, safety Eric Weddle and defensive end Jacques Cesaire.
San Diego took a 10-0 lead after its first two possessions and Rivers made way for Volek, who hadn't had significant playing time since leading the winning drive in a 28-24 divisional-round playoff victory at Indianapolis two seasons ago.
``It feels good to get hit again,'' Volek said.
Volek was largely unimpressive until the final drive, when he moved the Chargers from their 42 with 4:25 left. He was 19 of 30 for 216 yards, with one interception.
``Hopefully I won't play in the playoffs,'' said Volek, who nearly was intercepted five plays before the winning TD. ``I want Philip to stay healthy, but if my number is called, I have to go out and execute the plays that are called. We've been waiting a while to get back on the field. It was good for us to get an opportunity to show people what we can do.''
The Chargers jumped ahead on Nate Kaeding's 47-yard field goal and Rivers' 12-yard scoring pass to Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates. Rivers, who had a handful of overthrows, was 9 of 15 for 99 yards.
``Anytime you suit up, you want to win,'' Rivers said. ``We've got guys in here that got more playing time than normal, but also guys that, as we've seen all year, you never know when they can get called on as we head to the playoffs. Now we've put together 11 in a row. It doesn't mean anything as we go forward, necessarily, because we all get a clean slate, but it was great to win.''
The Redskins looked inept early, including choosing to punt from the Chargers' 34 late in the first quarter.
Kaeding's 24-yard field goal early in the second quarter gave San Diego a 13-0 lead.
The Redskins scored on consecutive drives in the second quarter to take a 14-13 lead. Jason Campbell threw a 2-yard TD pass to Todd Yoder midway through the quarter. On the first play of the Skins' next drive, he threw an 84-yard pass to Malcolm Kelly to the Chargers' 4. Three plays later, Campbell found Mike Sellers wide open in the back of the end zone.
Graham Gano kicked field goals of 22 and 26 yards for the Redskins in the second half, and Kaeding kicked a 45-yarder.
Campbell was 28 of 42 for 281 yards.
``It's a bad loss,'' Kelly said. ``It's a terrible loss. With everything that has been going on with this whole team, today kind of sums it all up. You get to the end again and you have a game won and lose again. We have to find a way to put it together. I think we will. I think we should have done it a whole lot sooner this year.''
Firing Zorn likely won't be the only change with the Redskins.
``The team is going to be broken up in a lot of ways,'' Campbell said.
NOTES: San Diego's Malcom Floyd had nine catches for a career-high 140 yards. Craig Davis started for Jackson and had six catches for 52 yards. ... Washington defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin was shaken up after a helmet-to-helmet collision with teammate London Fletcher on San Diego's winning drive. ----
AP Sports Writer Joseph White in Ashburn, Va., contributed to this story.