Still grieving, Bengals fall to Chargers
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.
Yes, it was a crazy several minutes at Qualcomm late Sunday
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
“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.
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
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 Mruckzkowski 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
“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
San Diego clinched a playoff spot before halftime because of
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
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.”
Quarterback Carson 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.