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An Ending for the Ages
There's an old Rivers’ family saying, passed down from patriarch to son, for times like these.
"My dad always told me," said Philip Rivers with a sly grin, "that if you want the ball to bounce your way, go to the gym."
Emerging victorious in a game like this certainly involves skill, honed from training camp to 4th-and-15 in Week 17. But there's good fortune -- the kind the Chargers celebrated before kickoff, the kind they needed to push what Rivers called an inevitable field goal wide left, the kind involved with an overtime flip of the coin.
Each moment played perfectly into the next, starting with a field goal that sailed inches right of its intended target and gave what many Bolts called "new life."
Ryan Succop was five-for-five on field goals from 40-49 yards when he lined up a 41-yarder with eight seconds left. The ball was snapped, the hold was good, and Succop missed his game-winning attempt.
Center Nick Hardwick chalked the miss up to an unexpected substitution on the field goal coverage team. After all, he said it's not often big King Dunlap lines up on the other side of the line of scrimmage. But Hardwick exhaled, smiled, and invoked the name of the football Gods who must've been smiling on Qualcomm Stadium.
"We caught a break," said Hardwick. "This team needed that. We had to catch some breaks and have things fall our way."
And momentum continued to favor the Bolts. To start the fifth and deciding quarter, they won the coin toss and had the chance to end the game with a touchdown drive. "The overtime rules are crazy" said Philip Rivers.
It only got crazier when Rivers threw incomplete to Gates on third down. Out trotted the punt formation, and in the blink of an eye, Pro Bowler Eric Weddle was charging up the center of the line in a get-two-yards-or-go-home scenario.
"Thank God it worked the way it did," said Mike McCoy. But it was nearly a disaster -- the ball jarred loose, rolled to the Chiefs, and was scooped for what would've been a game-ending touchdown. But the line judge ran in, whistle blowing, and pointed demonstratively to the ground.
Weddle was ruled down, and he was down past the first down markers. Luck or something else, the Bolts had more new life to play with.
Nick Novak delivered with that additional opportunity and knocked home an overtime field goal. Then, just as Steve Rivers told his son, Philip, skill took over and the defense held the lead.
But McCoy can't attribute the playoff-clinching win to skill and skill alone -- not after tonight. He saw his Chargers suffer their share of deflating losses, but through each on, the first-year head coach said he saw a deeper meaning.
It all fell their way when it mattered most on Sunday, and they're playoff-bound because of it.
"I'll say this: Things happen for a reason," McCoy said. "You don't always understand it. Things happen for a reason. I can't tell you why, but it was a great way to end it (the regular season) tonight."