AFC West Week 16 decisive moment

When the game is on the line, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers usually is on the right side of the most decisive play of the game.

He wasn’t Sunday.

In the worst possible time to fail, the San Diego Chargers saw their four-season AFC West title reign end. Rivers threw an interception late in the third quarter of an eventual 34-20 loss at Cincinnati. After trailing 13-0, the Chargers clawed back to make it a three-point deficit. They were looking to take the lead and keep their playoff hopes alive. In the final seconds of the third period, San Diego had a first down at its own 47.

A Rivers’ pass intended for tight end Randy McMichael (who was playing for the injured Antonio Gates) went past McMichael and into the hands of Cincinnati linebacker Rey Maualuga at the Bengals’ 32. The linebacker took the ball and rumbled all the way to the Chargers’ 21. It set up a Cincinnati touchdown as the Bengals took a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

The play seemed to take the life out of San Diego. After trying all game to get back into it, San Diego gave all the momentum back to Cincinnati, which went out and dominated the fourth quarter with three touchdowns.

The result was a shocking loss and playoff-contention eviction notice for Rivers and San Diego.