Former Bolts Prevalent in Wild-Card Round

The Chargers did not make the playoffs, but they were well represented in the wild-card round. Several former Chargers played prominent roles in the opening round of the tourney, especially in the Panthers-Cardinals game. Here’s a quick run-down of some of those performances.

Cardinals at Panthers

The amount of former Chargers in this game was borderline ridiculous.

The Cardinals started Ryan Lindley at quarterback, who spent 10 weeks this season on San Diego’s practice squad. Lindley had a horrific game -- completing 16-of-28 passes for just 82 yards with one TD and two INTS -- but the simple fact he was starting a playoff game while Philip Rivers sat home is insanity.

Speaking of insanity, look at the running backs from Saturday’s game. Mike Tolbert and Fozzy Whittaker both caught touchdowns out of the backfield for the Panthers, while Marion Grice added a rushing score for Arizona. All three players are former Chargers, as is RB Kerwynn Williams, who led the Cardinals with 10 rushing attempts.

The Cardinals were blown out in the second half, but actually rallied to take a 14-13 lead into intermission thanks to a momentum-changing interception by Antonio Cromartie, who was San Diego’s first-round pick in 2006.

Carolina’s win marked Ron Rivera’s first playoff victory as a head coach. Kudos to the former Chargers defensive coordinator.

Ravens at Steelers

When Ravens CB Rashaan Melvin left Saturday night’s game with a head injury, he was replaced by none other than Antoine Cason, who joined Baltimore just a few weeks ago. Cason, like Cromartie, is a former Chargers first-round pick (2008).

Another former draftee was on the other side of this rivalry game, as Cam Thomas was a part of Pittsburgh’s rotation on the defensive line, finishing with one tackle.

The Ravens’ 30-17 victory sends them to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Baltimore, of course, would not even be in the tournament had the Chargers beaten the Chiefs in Week 17.

Bengals at Colts

Not much action from former Chargers in this game, but Bolts backers are intimately familiar with the coaches for both squads.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis represents a branch on the Marty Schottenheimer coaching tree; Lewis coached under Bill Cowher, who got his start under Schottenheimer. With Sunday’s loss, Lewis joined Schottenheimer, Jim Mora and Steve Owen as the only NFL coaches in history with at least six consecutive postseason losses.

On the other side, Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano picked up his second playoff victory. The older brother of Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano, Chuck tried to take John with him to Indianapolis when he was named head coach in 2012. The Chargers refused to let John Pagano out of his contract, so the Colts went with another former Chargers defensive coordinator, Greg Manusky.

Chuck Pagano and Manusky were just as successful against the Bengals in this year’s playoffs as Mike McCoy and John Pagano were in last year’s tournament. The Colts beat the Bengals, 26-10, while San Diego’s win over Cincinnati was a nearly identical 27-10.

Lions at Cowboys

Last -- and in this case, least -- is Dallas’ controversial win over Detroit.

There are not as many former Chargers playing for the Cowboys as there used to be, but former San Diego safety and special-teams ace C.J. Spillman is still doing his thing. He chipped in a couple of tackles against the Lions. The Chargers really could have used Spillman over the final month of the season, when their coverage units mysteriously forgot how to maintain their lanes and make tackles.

On the Detroit side, Lions senior coaching assistant Gunther Cunningham has a long history with the Chargers. He coached San Diego’s defensive line from 1985-1990 after initially being hired to be in the team’s personnel department. He also spent over 10 seasons in various capacities with San Diego’s division rivals in Kansas City.

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Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the team. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 18 years and covered the team since '03. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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