Chargers smell playoffs but goal remains

San Diego improved to 10-2 on the season this Sunday, matching Indianapolis for the best record in the AFC. The Colts still own the tiebreaker by virtue of their 7-1 record against the AFC, compared to the Chargers 8-2 mark. The defense again was stiff, especially against the run.

It is the first time since 1963 that they have opened the year with a 10-2 record.

"We got number ten in a tough environment," quarterback Philip Rivers said.

The Chargers recorded their first road win over the Buffalo Bills since 1985.

"Until you clinch a spot you aren't comfortable," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said of whether a playoff berth was in sight. "The opportunity is there. We had an opportunity to get to ten wins and that is a benchmark in this league. We are going to continue to work towards our goal."

It's the third-straight year the Bolts have run off at least five wins in a row. They won eight in a row en route to a 12-4 mark in 2004 and then won five in a row in 2005 and six this year, the longest active streak in the NFL.

The Bolts had scored a touchdown on 15 straight red zone drives and 19 straight scoring drives until Kaeding connected on a field goal in the first quarter.

They are the only team in the league with at least 1,800 yards rushing and 2,500 yards passing.

Schottenheimer earned his 201st win on Sunday, tying him with former Broncos and Falcons coach Dan Reeves for sixth-most all-time. San Diego is 9-10 in December, the only losing month they own under the direction of Schottenheimer.

The 1st San Diego first down negated by a penalty all season came in the third quarter on a chop block called on the offensive line.

The Chargers lead the NFL with 44 sacks this season.

Shaun Phillips notched the first sack of the game in the second quarter, taking away a completion when Losman was ruled down for a two-yard loss. It pushed Phillips sack total to 10.5, the most since Marcellus Wiley collected 13 in 2001.

In his first game back, Shawne Merriman registered a sack and a forced fumble in the second quarter. Igor Olshansky recovered the ball. It was the first fumble recovery of Olshansky's career.

"He proved he is still one of the best players in the league," Phillips said of his fellow outside linebacker.

Merriman was credited with his second forced fumble at the end of the first half. He stripped Roscoe Parrish, matching his previous season's total for forced fumbles in one game and giving him four on his career.

"When you're a game-changer, you're expected to go out there and change the game," Merriman explained. ""Playing football is like riding a bike; you never really forget how to do it."

The linebacker added his second sack of the game to tie Shaun Phillips for the most on the team with 10.5. It was second straight multi-sack game and third time this season he has posted two or more sacks.

Clinton Hart recovered the Parrish fumble, his first of the year. He has pounced on four fumbles in his career. Hart would pick up an interception in the fourth quarter and subsequently fumble the ball the away. That led to a Buffalo scoring drive to bring them within three and an onsides kick away from potentially tying the game.

"We shouldn't have been in that situation," Schottenheimer said of the Bills last scoring drive. "We would have thought given the circumstances of the last couple of weeks there is a sense of what you have to do relative to the time remaining in the game. The ball."

Quentin Jammer had a first quarter interception, picking off a pass forced by Shawne Merriman rushing quarterback J.P. Losman. It was the fourth interception of the year for Jammer, tying a career-high for a single season. Jammer had four picks in 2003 and managed to snare just two over the next two seasons.

Donnie Edwards collected 18 tackles on Sunday, including 12 solo. That pushed him past 100 tackles for the year, the only player to record 100-plus tackles in each of the past ten seasons.

"Jamal is the anchor in our defense," Edwards said of his success. "He is the guy in the middle that controls all the run. When he is playing they can't do anything."

The Chargers defense held Willis McGahee to 11 yards rushing on nine carries in the first half and just 26 yards rushing on 16 carries for the game.

"I think we really committed to try to defend the run against them because we felt they were going to make an attempt to run it," said Schottenheimer. "We did a pretty good job in that regard."

After Nate Kaeding kicked his first field goal since November 5, he made a crucial tackle on Terrence McGee to prevent a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff.

Kaeding missed a 36-yard field goal in the second quarter when his kick went wide left with a wicked wind-assisted curve. The ball started down the middle of the pipes before shooting left.


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