Chargers stay in AFC playoff mix with 14-7 win over Jets
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers are still hanging around in the AFC playoff hunt.
They had to sweat out a 14-7 win against the New York Jets on Sunday, but they've been playing with little room for error all season after an 0-4 start. They'll go into next week's showdown against Oakland needing one more win - and a little more help elsewhere.
"That's all we can ask for at this point, starting 0-and-4, digging the hole we dug, is to be alive in Week 17," Rivers said. "All those games you are sick about at this point, but you're excited to have a chance."
Rivers threw a touchdown pass to Antonio Gates, and Melvin Gordon ran for a score for the Chargers (8-7), who entered the weekend needing to win both of their remaining games. Rivers & Co. held up their end of things, but just barely.
Los Angeles had a tough time getting much going consistently against a spirited effort by the defense of the Jets (5-10), but didn't need much offense in this one. Rivers finished 22 of 40 for 290 yards.
Tennessee (8-7) lost 27-23 to the Rams, and Buffalo (8-7) fell to New England 37-16 - each helping the Chargers' playoff hopes. The Titans are home against Jacksonville next week, while the Bills are at Miami. The Chargers would be in the postseason if they win, Baltimore (9-6) beats Cincinnati and Tennessee loses.
"We've put ourselves in a better position, even though we don't control our own destiny," cornerback Casey Hayward said. "We're still in it. You're never out until they say, `You don't have a chance.'"
Gordon had 81 yards on 19 carries, but left late with an ankle injury. He remained standing on the sideline as the Chargers tried to run out the clock, and coach Anthony Lynn was not immediately sure of the severity.
Bryce Petty, making his second start this season in place of the injured Josh McCown, struggled all game. He missed open receivers and repeatedly flexed his right hand, which he banged up early in the game. But he remained in and said his hand is fine, finishing 15 of 28 for 119 yards and an interception.
"It's frustrating," Petty said. "This team deserves better, this offense deserves better - and I know I can make those plays."
Bilal Powell was the bright spot for the Jets' offense, rushing for 145 yards, including a 57-yard TD, on 19 carries.
Los Angeles took a 7-0 lead with 8:55 left in the first half on Gates' 3-yard touchdown catch, capping a 12-play, 71-yard drive.
The Chargers had a chance to increase their advantage early in the third quarter, but Nick Rose, signed earlier this week, was wide right on a 47-yard attempt.
New York took advantage of the miss to tie it on Powell's long touchdown run.
Los Angeles regained the lead quickly, however, on Gordon's 1-yard run. Gordon hit the hole and pushed over the goal line with a strong second and third effort.
The Jets had a chance to tie in the closing minutes, getting a roughing-the-passer call on Joey Bosa to help extend their drive. But on fourth-and-7 from the Chargers 17, Petty's heave to Robby Anderson in the end zone with 3:07 left fell incomplete.
"We were off-key as an offense and in the passing game," Jets coach Todd Bowles said. "We'll go back and look at the film and build from there. We didn't make enough plays."
Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen intercepted Petty's desperation toss to end the first half. It was the first career interception for Allen, who was tackled by Brandon Shell. The Jets right tackle suffered a concussion on the play and was replaced by Brent Qvale in the second half.
"We wanted to put a tall guy back there that can jump, and Keenan showed why he's back there," Lynn said of the 6-foot-2 Allen.
Los Angeles' Travis Benjamin returned a punt 91 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter - but it was nullified by a holding penalty on Nick Dzubnar. Instead, it went down as a 14-yard return for Benjamin.
Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was inactive after being benched at New Orleans last Sunday for being late to a team meeting.
Wilkerson practiced with the team all week, and coach Todd Bowles insisted the veteran "served his sentence" when asked if further discipline might be used. Bowles said it was "a coach's decision" for Wilkerson to not play.
The coach declined to say whether Wilkerson's contract situation played a role. His $16.75 million salary for next season is fully guaranteed against a serious injury.
Jets: Defensive end Leonard Williams left in the second half with a back injury and didn't return. Jonotthan Harrison started at center for the Jets in place of Wesley Johnson, who was active but dealt with a hip ailment all week. Right guard Brian Winters was out with an abdominal injury and Dakota Dozier started in his place.
The Jets won the opening coin toss, but deferred - and then pulled off a successful onside kick to start the game.
New York became the second team this season to attempt an onside kick to open a game, joining Tennessee (Week 1). The Jets are also the first team to successfully recover on onside kick in the first 30 seconds since Philadelphia in Week 17 of the 2012 season, according to NFL Research.
The Jets came away without any points, though, as an offensive pass interference call on Anderson and a sack by Tenny Palepoi short-circuited New York's drive.
Chargers: vs. Oakland next Sunday.
Jets: at New England next Sunday.
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Updated December 24, 2017