(9-7, 4-4 away)
(11-5, 8-0 home)
1:05 PM ET, January 5, 2014
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
That pales in comparison to the Cincinnati Bengals' wait for a playoff victory.
The AFC North champion Bengals seek to end their 23-year drought without a postseason win Sunday when they host the surging Chargers.
San Diego (9-7) won four straight West titles between 2006-09, going 3-4 in the playoffs with Rivers in those years. The Chargers finished second each of the three previous seasons to miss the playoffs, but four straight victories to close the regular season for a third-place finish was good enough in 2013 to finally return.
"It's been a real long time so it feels great to be back in," said Rivers, who led the NFL in completion percentage at a career-best 69.5 percent.
It must feel like an eternity, meanwhile, for Bengals fans to see their team taste playoff success. A loss Sunday would extend Cincinnati's drought to 24 years -- which would mark the sixth-longest such streak in NFL history.
The Bengals (11-5) will be making their fourth playoff appearance in five seasons and third in as many seasons with Andy Dalton at quarterback. Dalton hasn't been up to par in losses to Houston in each of the last two postseasons, throwing four interceptions with no touchdowns while getting sacked six times.
More is expected now that Dalton finished third in the league with 33 touchdown passes -- one more than Rivers. There are still concerns about his play after last Sunday's 34-17 win over Baltimore in which he threw for 281 yards and two scores but was also picked off a career-worst four times.
"People can keep saying whatever they want because we haven't won a playoff game," Dalton said. "You've got to win. That's what it comes down to. And for us to get where we want to go, we need to win. That's the way it works. For me, we need to get a win in this one."
The onus is also on coach Marvin Lewis, now 0-4 in the postseason in 11 seasons with Cincinnati. He had an easy answer on what it will take to prove that he can win in the playoffs.
"We've just got to go play," Lewis said. "We're not going to get any of you to shut up about it until we win."
Lewis' counterpart will be San Diego's Mike McCoy, one of three coaches in his first season with his club in this postseason along with Philadelphia's Chip Kelly and Kansas City's Andy Reid. The former Denver offensive coordinator is credited with helping Rivers turn in a stellar season.
Rivers threw for nine touchdowns and 845 yards with a 109.8 passer rating over the Chargers' four-game win streak to close the regular season. That run culminated with last Sunday's wild 27-24 overtime home win over the Chiefs, who missed a field goal at the end of regulation that would have eliminated San Diego.
"We've been on a playoff run for the last month really, to be honest with you," McCoy said. "We were 5-7, no one gave us the chance. And we just said, 'Listen, just take care of the next opponent and see what happens.' It's going to be the same thing this week."
McCoy unwittingly gave Lewis a tool to motivate the Bengals. In his post-game speech to the team, McCoy said that San Diego 'owed the Bengals' -- a reference to a 17-10 home loss to Cincinnati on Dec. 1. Several Chargers were also heard saying the famed Bengals chant 'Who Dey' in the background, and Lewis showed the clip to his club.
That Dec. 1 defeat preceded San Diego's winning streak. Rivers was held to a season-low 80.0 passer rating as the Chargers turned the ball over three times and posted their lowest point total.
"I want to be very respectful because they had a lot to do with it," Rivers said. "They caused the turnovers and they covered us. Some of it may not have been the best throw. They certainly were out there causing us to not get in the end zone and our execution wasn't great. We've got to execute better."
Dalton managed only 190 yards passing with one touchdown and one interception in that game although he improved to 2-0 against San Diego along with a 20-13 road victory a season ago in which Rivers was sacked four times.
This rematch figures to be tougher for the warm-weather Chargers since the Bengals are 8-0 at home, where they have amassed 24 sacks while limiting opposing quarterbacks to a 60.6 rating with nine touchdowns to 15 interceptions. Super Bowl champions Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers all failed to win in Cincinnati this year.
"They have to come here to 'The Jungle' and deal with our weather and our fans," Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry said. "We'll see if we get the best out of them."
The only previous postseason meeting between these clubs was a memorable one. Cincinnati won 27-7 over a Dan Fouts-led San Diego team in the AFC championship game in 1982 in one of the coldest games in NFL history.
McCoy wouldn't address the situation involving linebacker Thomas Keiser, who was arrested after a fight at barleymash, a San Diego bar and restaurant, several hours after Sunday's win.
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|Avg Points Allowed||10.0||27.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||LAC|
|Rush Yds Allowed||LAC|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Los Angeles leads 5-4|
|Dec 1, 2013||LAC 10, CIN 17|
|Dec 2, 2012||LAC 13, CIN 20|
|Dec 26, 2010||LAC 20, @CIN 34|
|Dec 20, 2009||LAC 27, CIN 24|
|Nov 12, 2006||LAC 49, @CIN 41|
|Nov 23, 2003||LAC 27, CIN 34|
|Sep 8, 2002||LAC 34, @CIN 6|
|Sep 30, 2001||LAC 28, CIN 14|
This will be the fourth year both 6-seeds advance to the Divisional Playoffs under the current playoff system (since 1990).[+]
Both 6-Seeds Winning in Wild Card, Under Current Playoff System
The Chargers sent five or more pass rushers on 4-of-7 dropbacks in the third quarter Sunday (6-of-17 in first half), holding Andy Dalton to 0-of-3 passing with a sack and interception. The Chargers got their best pressure in the first three quarters sending extra rushers before switching to prevent-style defense in the fourth.[+]
Andy Dalton by No. of Pass Rushers - 1st 3 Quarters Sunday
Philip Rivers posted a Total QBR of 88.9 in his road playoff debut in the 2007 Divisional playoffs, the seventh-highest Total QBR in road playoff games since 2006 (when QBR became available). But after winning that road debut, Rivers is 0-2 in his last two road playoff games with a Total QBR under 40.[+]
Philip Rivers Career in Road Playoff Games
A.J. Green caught 3-of-9 targets for 34 yards Sunday, marking another disappointing playoff performance for the Dalton-to-Green combination. Dalton has completed 13-of-32 postseason attempts to Green in his career, and completed more passes to the Chargers defense (two) than Green (one) in the second half.[+]
Andy Dalton has scrambled, been sacked or been under duress on all seven of his third-quarter dropbacks. Dalton is 0-3 with an interception and a sack against at least five rushers.
The 6th-seeded Chargers have had success on the road against Peyton Manning. Including their win this season in Denver in Week 15, the Chargers have won 4 of the last 5 road games against Manning. And before today, Philip Rivers' only other playoff road win was vs Manning at Indy (2007 Divisional Round, 28-24)[+]
Peyton Manning vs AFC Playoff Teams - Career At Home (Includes Postseason)
Dalton is only 2-4 for 23 yards targeting A.J. Green and 10-13 for 141 yards with a TD targeting everyone else.
Giovani Bernard's lost fumble was the first fumble lost inside the 5-yard line by a Bengals player this season and only the second over the last 10 seasons (including playoffs).
Antonio Gates has not been targeted today. Gates was targeted at least once in every first half since the start of 2012 (excluding 1 inactive game).
The Bengals have spent 11:40 all season trailing at home in the fourth quarter (led for 114:30 this season). It all came in one game- a Week 3 win against the Packers.
Philip Rivers finished the first half with a total of six pass attempts. That ties for his fewest attempts in a first half in his career (Week 17 2005, Week 1 2006).
The Chargers have gained 50 rush yards after contact today... The Chargers were held to a season-low 22 rush yards after first contact in Week 13 against the Bengals.
The Chargers had only forced 1 red-zone turnover all season. Gio Bernard had only fumbled once all season (not in red zone).
Andy Dalton went 10-of-11 for 146 yards in the first half against four or fewer pass rushers, being put under pressure just once on those plays. Dalton is 2-of-6 for 18 yards against five or more pass rushers and was put under pressure on three of those plays.
Though standout center Nick Hardwick missed time, the Chargers were effective on interior rushes. San Diego had 28 rushes for 162 yards inside the tackles, the Chargers' most since Week 5 of 2011 at Denver. The Chargers had almost twice as many 5-yard rushes as the Bengals defense had allowed per game this season on inside rushes. The Chargers rushed on 68 percent of plays Sunday, their highest rush percentage since Week 15 of 2007 (69 percent vs Lions). The Chargers rushed for 50 yards after contact Sunday. In Week 13, the Chargers were held to a season-low 23 rush yards after contact by the Bengals defense.[+]
Bengals Rush Defense Inside Tackles, 2013
Rivers finished the first half with six passes, but completed all six for 68 yards and a touchdown on the first drive of the third quarter.
Nick Hardwick played in the second most snaps on the Chargers (1,024) this season Chargers averaged 4.1 yards per rush with Hardwick on the field, 1.8 with him off the field
In the Total QBR era (since 2006) no quarterback has struggled in the playoffs as much as Andy Dalton. His Total QBR in the playoffs is the lowest since 2006. On Sunday, the Bengals converted three of 12 third downs (25.0 percent), their second-worst conversion rate of the season behind 7.1 percent in their 41-20 win over the Browns in Week 11. Dalton was sacked three times, and his two interceptions came on throws less than 10 yards downfield.[+]
ESPN Stats & Information