Bolts can clinch playoff berth with win over Cincy
AP Sports Writer
SAN DIEGO – Win at home Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals and the streaking San Diego Chargers are in the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
That’s as simple as quarterback Philip Rivers wants to keep it. He knows the Chargers can also clinch their fourth straight AFC West title and a first-round bye, although those scenarios will rely on the results of other games.
“The first goal that you have, obviously, is to win your division, which we still have some work to do to get that done,” Rivers said Monday. “But you want to just get in. This game this weekend will allow that to happen if we go out and play well and win the game. … We win this game and we can be assured of playing past Jan. 3,”
The Chargers improved to 10-3 with Sunday’s 20-17 win at Dallas, their eighth straight win.
San Diego has a two-game lead in the AFC West over the Denver Broncos. The Chargers can win the division with a Denver loss or a win and a Denver tie.
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To clinch a first-round bye, the Chargers must beat Cincinnati and have Denver lose or tie against Oakland and the New England Patriots lose or tie at Buffalo.
AFC North leader Cincinnati is 9-4 after a 30-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Rivers said there’s no concern of confidence turning into cockiness.
“I don’t think there is, not with this group,” he said. “I don’t think it’s us just feeding you that. It really is us. Some of us were talking about it during yesterday’s postgame, we really are kind of, ‘Oh, we’ve got Cincinnati next, another big one, let’s more forward.’ “
Rivers broke a fourth-quarter tie with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates, then followed with a drive that ate up more than 7 minutes and ended in a field goal by Nate Kaeding.
“It is exciting to go on the road and win and beat the Cowboys and go get that done,” Rivers added. “But we’re not caught up in the emotional rollercoaster ride. We really have just been able to keep on that steady grounded path. I think that will be key. it’s certainly worth being aware of to not let that happen and I think that will be key as we move through these next couple of weeks.”
The Chargers are 16-0 in December since Rivers became their starting quarterback in 2006. San Diego’s last 11 December wins have come under coach Norv Turner.
The Chargers have closed out the last three seasons with winning streaks – 10 games in 2006 in coach Marty Schottenheimer’s last season, six in 2007 in Turner’s first season and four last year, when they rallied from 4-8 to win the division at .500.
Having seen plenty of scenarios, Rivers said it doesn’t do any good to look beyond Sunday’s game.
“As good as they can be going, they can turn in the other direction,” Rivers said. “Just because you win eight in row doesn’t mean you’re going to win the ninth. As we found out last year, there’s a lot that can happen in the last two weeks of the season. We’ve just got to carry on like we have and take care of business.”