It took nearly five quarters to do it, but the Chargers secured the AFC’s final wild-card berth on Sunday afternoon, beating game Kansas City 27-24 in overtime.
San Diego will play AFC North champion Cincinnati next weekend.
In the final minute of regulation, the Chargers looked in serious danger of being eliminated from postseason contention. The Chiefs, who largely played backups to rest starters in advance of the wild-card round, had driven into field-goal range, and kicker Ryan Succop had a 41-yard attempt to give the Chiefs the lead with eight seconds left.
However, Succop missed wide right, giving the Chargers a chance to redeem themselves in overtime.
In the extra period, the Chargers engineered a 16-play, 62-yard drive taking 9:30 and ending in Nick Novak’s 36-yard field goal. The drive’s key play came when the Chargers pulled off a daring fake punt on 4th-and-2 from its own 28-yard-line. Eric Weddle gained the two yards needed, and the Chargers had a fresh set of downs. (Weddle lost the ball, but his progress was ruled to have been stopped.) Later, they would convert two third downs to keep the march going.
The Chiefs would drive as far as the San Diego 36-yard-line on their lone overtime possession, but their progress stalled, and Chase Daniel’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete after he crossed the line of scrimmage, giving the Chargers the win.
The Chiefs (11-5) will play at Indianapolis next week.
Tailback Ryan Mathews racked up 144 yards on 24 carries for the Chargers, who trailed by 10 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Philip Rivers threw for 229 yards on 22-of-33 passing for San Diego (9-7), tossing TD passes to Ladarius Green, Antonio Gates and Eddie Royal.
Daniel threw for 200 yards and a TD in his first NFL regular-season start. Rookie tailback Knile Davis scored a pair of rushing TDs and gained 81 yards on 27 carries for Kansas City, which listed quarterback Alex Smith, tailback Jamaal Charles and outside linebacker Tamba Hali among its inactives.
The Chargers’ victory eliminated the Steelers from wild-card contention. The Ravens and Dolphins had been knocked out earlier in the day.