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San Diego at Cincinnati

Bengals foil Bolts' run of four straight playoff berths

CBSSports.com wire reports
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CINCINNATI -- Carson Palmer's near-perfect showing left San Diego out in the cold.

Palmer threw four touchdown passes in swirling snow -- two to Jerome Simpson -- and the Cincinnati Bengals snapped the Chargers' streak of four straight playoffs appearances with a 34-20 victory on Sunday that was an ending in several ways.

The Chargers (8-7) froze up in their coldest game in nearly three years, repeatedly self-destructing on a raw, windy evening. The loss gave the AFC West title to Kansas City, which beat Tennessee 34-14 earlier in the day.

This one will leave San Diego chilled to the bone for a long time.

The West Coast team was one of the league's best finishers, having won 20 of its last 21 games in December. The Chargers were out of their element Sunday - and now, out of the playoffs as well.

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"Words can't really explain how we feel right now," safety Eric Weddle said. "Our season is done. It's probably the worst feeling you can have."

The Bengals (4-11) are ending one of their worst seasons with a few satisfying moments.

Palmer, a Southern California kid, led them to their second straight win with a cast of reserve receivers. His 59-yard touchdown to Simpson -- playing in place of the injured Chad Ochocinco -- highlighted a 21-point fourth quarter against the league's top-ranked defense.

Palmer finished with a career-best passer rating of 157.2, just shy of a perfect 158.3. He completed 16 of 21 for 269 yards without an interception.

"That's the finest game that Carson has played here," said Marvin Lewis, who may have coached his final game in Cincinnati.

After losing 10 in a row, matching the club record for futility, the Bengals have won back-to-back games in front of small home crowds. No surprise there: Cincinnati has won 18 of its last 23 home finales.

The Chargers have a habit of finishing fast and winning titles. This time, they took too long to get started, forcing them to win out. They couldn't do it in the unaccustomed cold -- 29 degrees at the kickoff with a wind chill of 17. It was their coldest game since they dropped the AFC title game in New England at the end of the 2007 season.

The Chargers pretended they were plenty warm. Several came onto the field in blue shorts and sleeveless shirts for pregame warmups in a driving snow.

By the kickoff, they were well-chilled.

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San Diego Chargers
San Diego Chargers
F
With their postseason lives on the line, the Chargers bumbled from the first play to the last. San Diego will have all offseason to ponder the mental mistakes, critical turnovers and red zone problems that decided its elimination game.
Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals
A
The Bengals played their most complete game of the season in all three phases. Even more encouraging than the win, all five touchdowns were scored by rookies or second-year players.
By Paul Dehner
RapidReports Correspondent

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Receiver Vincent Jackson fumbled a handoff on a reverse on San Diego's opening play and had to chase it all the way back to the 1-yard line. The series ended with Mike Scifres shanking a 24-yard punt. Five plays later, Palmer threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham.

It would be that kind of day for the team from southern California.

Philip Rivers came into the game with a career passing rating of 100 in December, the best in league history. He was 27 of 40 for 256 yards with a touchdown and an interception that set up one of the Bengals' fourth-quarter touchdowns.

"It's tough anytime you're eliminated from a chance of playing for the postseason," Rivers said. "It's something I haven't dealt with since I've been playing here. This was the final straw."

Palmer, who won the 2002 Heisman Trophy at USC, has been throwing to a much different group of receivers the last two games. Terrell Owens is recovering from knee surgery, and Ochocinco was inactive Sunday with a bad ankle.

Simpson, a second-round pick in 2008, had a career-high six catches for 124 yards. Andre Caldwell had four catches for 87 yards, and Gresham had four for 56 yards and a touchdown.

Without Owens and Ochocinco -- the self-described Batman and Robin -- the passing game was super.

"They ran great routes and made big plays," Palmer said. "They made some of the biggest plays we've had all season."

Notes

  • Chargers RB Mike Tolbert was carted off the field after putting his head down on a first-quarter run, leaving him face-down and motionless. Coach Norv Turner said he has a sprained neck and shoulder and should be fine. Tolbert gave a thumbs-up sign as he left the field.
  • Rivers is 21-2 while starting regular-season games in December and January. The Chargers also lost at home to Oakland on Dec. 5.
  • Simpson has played the last two weeks because T.O. and Ochocinco were hurt. Before those two games, he had only one career catch in 2 1/2 seasons.
Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Related Video

Sun. Dec. 26Final
0371020
7602134
ChargersBengals
Pass: P. Rivers (27-40, 256) C. Palmer (16-21, 269)
Rush: R. Mathews (12-55) C. Benson (24-52)
Rec: L. Naanee (4-59) J. Simpson (6-124)
Scoring Summary
1ST QUARTER
TDJermaine Gresham, 3 Yd pass from Carson Palmer (Clint Stitser kick is good), 10:19. Drive: 5 plays, 32 yards in 2:40.
2ND QUARTER
TDJerome Simpson, 10 Yd pass from Carson Palmer (Clint Stitser kick Failed), 12:54. Drive: 8 plays, 59 yards in 4:47.
FGNate Kaeding, 20 Yd, 1:15. Drive: 12 plays, 73 yards in 6:19.
3RD QUARTER
TDRyan Mathews, 23 Yd run (Nate Kaeding kick is good), 5:45. Drive: 8 plays, 86 yards in 4:47.
4TH QUARTER
TDJordan Shipley, 3 Yd pass from Carson Palmer (Clint Stitser kick is good), 13:00. Drive: 4 plays, 21 yards in 2:00.
FGNate Kaeding, 28 Yd, 7:18. Drive: 12 plays, 47 yards in 5:42.
TDJerome Simpson, 59 Yd pass from Carson Palmer (Clint Stitser kick is good), 6:25. Drive: 3 plays, 62 yards in 0:53.
TDBernard Scott, 10 Yd run (Clint Stitser kick is good), 3:54. Drive: 3 plays, 26 yards in 1:33.
TDKelley Washington, 5 Yd pass from Philip Rivers (Nate Kaeding kick is good), 1:27. Drive: 9 plays, 72 yards in 2:27.
Players of the Game
Arizona

C. Palmer
Att 21
Comp 16
Yds 269
TD 4
Philadelphia

R. Mathews
Rush 12
Yds 55
Avg 4.6
TD 1
 
San Diego
PassingCP/ATYDSTDINT
P. Rivers27/4025611
RushingATTYDSTDLG
R. Mathews1255123
D. Sproles3806
P. Rivers1202
J. Hester2101
M. Tolbert4-206
ReceivingRECYDSTDLG
L. Naanee459019
D. Sproles855013
V. Jackson454017
K. Washington540111
R. Mathews328016
R. McMichael21308
K. Wilson1707
Cincinnati
PassingCP/ATYDSTDINT
C. Palmer16/2126940
RushingATTYDSTDLG
C. Benson2452011
B. Scott1150110
C. Peerman1101
C. Palmer2-100
ReceivingRECYDSTDLG
J. Simpson6124259
A. Caldwell487044
J. Gresham456123
J. Shipley1313
B. Scott1-10-1
Complete Player Stats
Other Games
CAR 3 Final
PIT 27
DAL 26 Final
ARI 27
NE 34 Final
BUF 3
NYJ 34 Final
CHI 38
BAL 20 Final
CLE 10
WAS 20 Final
JAC 17
TEN 14 Final
KC 34
DET 34 Final
MIA 27
SF 17 Final
STL 25
SEA 15 Final
TB 38
HOU 23 Final
DEN 24
IND 31 Final
OAK 26
NYG 17 Final
GB 45
NO 17 Final
ATL 14
MIN 24 Final
PHI 14