The San Diego Chargers now have a little better outlook on reaching the playoffs.
Philip Rivers threw two touchdown passes to Malcom Floyd and the Chargers remained alive in the AFC West race with a 31-0 home win yesterday over the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs, who struggled greatly without quarterback Matt Cassel.
The Chargers (7-6) pulled within one game of the Chiefs (8-5) in their quest for a fifth straight division title. San Diego has a short week, though, hosting San Francisco Thursday night.
Cassel didn’t travel after having an emergency appendectomy Wednesday. His backup, Brodie Croyle, completed 7 of 17 passes for 40 yards and was sacked four times in his first start since the 2009 opener. He dropped to 0-10 as an NFL starter.
Rivers was 18 of 24 for 226 yards and the Chargers outgained the Chiefs, 426 yards to 67. Kansas City had only five first downs, tying a franchise low.
“Defensively, I’m not sure that you could play any better than that,’’ said Chargers coach Norv Turner.
It was San Diego’s first regular-season shutout against the Chiefs. The teams began play in 1960 as original members of the AFL. The Chargers also shut out the Chiefs, 17-0, in a wild-card playoff game after the 1992 season.
The Chargers ran for a season-high 207 yards one week after being held to 21 in a 28-13 loss to Oakland.
Rivers led the Chargers to a 21-0 halftime lead. He threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Floyd on San Diego’s first drive and hit him again with a 9-yard TD pass with 40 seconds left in the half. In between, Mike Tolbert ran 8 yards untouched for a score midway through the second quarter.
“It’s a playoff game and we can’t lose,’’ Rivers said. “We know that. We can’t look to January because there’s no guarantee we are going to get there. But it’s playoff football from here on out, and it still may not be enough.’’
Steelers 23, Bengals 7 Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley returned interceptions for Pittsburgh’s only touchdowns and the Steelers sent visiting Cincinnati to a franchise record-tying 10th consecutive defeat.
Carson Palmer threw three interceptions, two to Polamalu, as Cincinnati (2-11) matched the David Shula-coached 1993 Bengals by losing 10 consecutive games in the same season. The overall franchise record is 11 consecutive defeats from 1992-93.
For the second week in a row, Polamalu made the pivotal play. The safety cut in front of intended receiver Terrell Owens to intercept Palmer’s sideline pass and returned it 45 yards for a TD, tying the game at 7 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the first half.
The Steelers (10-3) sealed it when Woodley scored on a 14-yard interception return early in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh hadn’t returned two interceptions for TDs in a game since Nov. 22, 1998, against Jacksonville. Woodley also had two sacks.
Ben Roethlisberger, playing on a gimpy right foot and wearing a visor in the first half to protect his broken nose, went 21 of 33 for 258 yards.
Eagles 30, Cowboys 27 DeSean Jackson’s go-ahead 91-yard TD catch early in the fourth quarter was among many big plays by Philadelphia in Arlington, Texas, as the Eagles (9-4) moved a half-game up on the Giants in the NFC East. The division rivals play next Sunday.
Dallas (4-9) fell behind in the opening minutes, yet kept it close and even led, 20-14, before Jackson and LeSean McCoy (16 carries, 149 yards) took over for the Eagles. The loss guaranteed the Cowboys their first losing season since 2004.
Jackson caught a 60-yard pass on the opening play of the game and kept biting off huge chunks of yardage. On only four receptions, he gained 210 yards, third-most in franchise history. His performance helped mask an otherwise rocky outing by Michael Vick, who was 16 of 26 for 270 yards and two interceptions. Take out Jackson’s catches, and Vick’s other 12 completions produced 60 yards.
Jon Kitna was 24 of 35 for 242 yards for the Cowboys, with two TDs and two interceptions.
Buccaneers 17, Redskins 16 Host Washington missed two short field goals, fumbled away a kickoff, and flubbed an extra point that would have tied the game with nine seconds to play. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay’s Connor Barth made all three of his field goal attempts and Josh Freeman led a fourth-quarter comeback for the fifth time this season.
Freeman hit Kellen Winslow on a 41-yard pass with 3:47 to play for the Buccaneers’ only touchdown. The Redskins (5-8) marched downfield and pulled within a point on Donovan McNabb’s 6-yard TD pass to Santana Moss on fourth down. However, on the extra point, Nick Sundberg’s slightly high snap in the steady rain went through holder Hunter Smith’s hands and Tampa Bay (8-5) recovered the ball.
Freeman was 15 of 25 for 266 yards, including 11 of 16 for 214 yards in the second half. Seven of the second-year quarterback’s 11 career victories have been fourth-quarter or overtime comeback wins.
Saints 31, Rams 13 Drew Brees threw for three scores, Malcolm Jenkins returned one of his two interceptions 96 yards for his first career TD, and host New Orleans throttled St. Louis for its sixth consecutive victory.
Marques Colston had a pair of touchdown catches in traffic as the Saints (10-3) jumped to a 14-0 lead, and Lance Moore added a 31-yard TD catch. Brees finished 25 of 40 for 221 yards and was intercepted twice.
Both of Jenkins’s interceptions came near the Saints’ goal line. The first pick thrown by Rams rookie Sam Bradford was extra costly as Jenkins snagged the pass at the New Orleans 4 and took it the other way for a 21-6 lead just before halftime.
Although the Rams (6-7) fell below .500, they remained in a first-place tie in the NFC West with Seattle.
49ers 40, Seahawks 21 Alex Smith threw for 255 yards and three TDs in a triumphant return to the starting lineup following a five-game absence, and host San Francisco improved its once-slim playoff hopes with a lopsided win.
The 49ers (5-8) looked much more like the team that was predicted to win the NFC West after an unbeaten preseason — not the bunch that began 0-5. San Francisco is within a game of division leaders Seattle (6-7) and St. Louis.
Matt Hasselbeck passed for 285 yards and two TDs for the Seahawks, but also threw four interceptions and lost a fumble.
Falcons 31, Panthers 10 Atlanta (11-2) maintained its grasp on the NFC’s best record by routing woeful Carolina. Michael Turner ran for 112 yards and three TDs, and Matt Ryan threw for a score in an average performance (22 of 30, 227 yards).
The Falcons built a 17-0 halftime lead in cruising to their seventh straight win. John Abraham and Kroy Biermann each had two sacks against the league’s worst offense. The Panthers (1-12) got a season-best 133 yards rushing from Jonathan Stewart.
Cardinals 43, Broncos 13 Host Arizona (4-9) snapped a seven-game losing streak while extending the Broncos’ misery — Denver (3-10) lost for the eighth time in nine games.
The Cardinals’ Jay Feely had a career-best five field goals, and he became the fourth kicker in 40 years to run for a TD — a 5-yarder on a fake field goal that ended a nine-quarter TD drought for Arizona.
The Broncos committed six turnovers, including three interceptions by Kyle Orton, in an uninspired debut under interim coach Eric Studesville.
Bills 13, Browns 6 With Buffalo’s defense dominating at home, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 11-yard TD pass to David Nelson in the first half was enough for the Bills (3-10). Cleveland’s offense didn’t cross midfield in five second-half possessions and had just 187 total yards. The Browns (5-8) fumbled five times, losing two, and Jake Delhomme’s interception in the final minutes sealed Cleveland’s fate.