The Chargers — this year’s NFL “Team of Destiny.” Or so it may appear after the San Diego squad that barely edged into the NFL playoffs shocked the favored Cincinnati Bengals Sunday afternoon in the Bengals’ own Paul Brown Stadium.
The surprisingly comfortable 27-10 Chargers victory, handing Cincinnati its first home defeat of the 2013/14 season, now sends them to Denver next Sunday where they will face the top-seeded Broncos led by shoe-in Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.
The Chargers have already faced the Broncos twice in the regular season, splitting the two games. But the Chargers victory came on Denver’s home turf, a 27-20 win in Week 15 of the 17-week season.
While Denver finished the season with a league-best 13-3 record and earned a first-round playoff bye, the Chargers finished the season with on mediocre 9-7 note. But they were a seemingly hopeless 5-7 before streaking to four straight victories to close out the regular season and send them on an improbable trip to the NFL Playoffs.
Playing in a steady, cold rain, Chargers’ Quarterback Philip Rivers was able to throw only 16 passes, completing 12 for 168 yards including a touchdown pass to tight end Ladarius Greem.
But the Chargers’ defense held the Bengals scoreless in the second half, coming up with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries as San Diego outscored the 7-point favorites 20-0, after dropping to a 10-7 early deficit.
So, are the Chargers’ this year’s “Team of Destiny,” that out-of-nowhere underdog who suddenly hits a late season hot streak that carries them all the way to a championship?
The NFL has seen the story happen before.
The most recent Team of Destiny would have to be the New York Giants of the 2011/12 season. The Giants won three of their last four games to finish the season 9-7, the same record the Chargers brought into the playoffs this year. The Giants needed a win on the final day of the season to make the playoffs, and they got it.
This season, the Chargers squeaked out an overtime win on the final day, aided by a controversial non-penalty call by officials on a missed Kansas City Chiefs field goal. The victory qualified The Chargers for the AFC’s final Wild Card playoff spot and the lowest seed of the conference’s six playoff teams.
The Giants easily won their opening playoff game that year as well before streaking to the Super Bowl where they stunned the favored New England Patriots.
If the Chargers can get by Manning’s Broncos on January 12 (4:30 ET, CBS), they will face the winner of next week’s New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts matchup in the Conference Championship game on January 19.
At that point, the Chargers would be just a win away from a trip to the Super Bowl in New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium on February 3.
How do you see it? Could the Chargers turn out to be this season’s Team of Destiny?