Chargers impress at finishing maneuvers

The talk early in the season was all about learning how to finish. The Chargers blew fourth-quarter leads against the Ravens and Chiefs, leaving critics to question the team's ability to put teams away. Since that week seven loss in Kansas City, San Diego has been finishing off opponents in every conceivable fashion.

The latest brand of victory was unveiled in Seattle, where the Chargers needed just five plays and 84 seconds to travel 59 yards for the winning score.

Philip Rivers raised above what was set to be another pedestrian outing, completing three of his four passes on the game-winning drive, good for 10, 14 and 37 yards. Those final two strikes went to the suddenly hot Vincent Jackson, who finished with 97 yards and the first multi-score game of his career.

"I had this feeling when we got the ball back that he was going to take us down the field," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "Quarterbacks are judged on one thing: finding a way to win."

The Chargers have won in ways more diverse than the line at the DMV. San Diego has mastered the come-from-behind thing, which was evidenced in weeks 10 and 11 when it became the first team in history to win back-to-back games in which it trailed by 17 or more points.

The Chargers have also learned to finish on defense, led by closer Drayton Florence, who had game-winning, fourth-down interceptions in consecutive weeks against the Broncos and Raiders.

"We've got to keep getting interceptions and making big plays," he said. "That was two weeks in a row on fourth down that we came away with interceptions."

The victory in Seattle was a combination of both of those two finishing maneuvers. The Chargers overcame a fourth-quarter deficit for the fourth time this season, executing the go-ahead drive with the precision of a neurosurgeon with his son under the knife.

"If you think you're going to go out and throw 70 percent complete and never throw an interception, you're kidding yourself," Rivers said. "You battle through those times. We've done that."

The defense made that drive possible by forcing a three-and-out on Seattle's previous possession, and then put the clamps down over the final half-minute to seal the franchise-best thirteenth victory of the season.

The incredible perseverance shown by San Diego has this team believing it is primed for a playoff run. The current champions of the AFC West have already secured a first-round bye and can lock up homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a win against the Cardinals at Qualcomm Stadium.

"We've put ourselves in a position where - when we are performing well - we create a lot of sound in the place," Schottenheimer said of the significance of playing at home.

With the wildcard round no longer a potential stumbling block, the Chargers are three playoff victories away from achieving their penultimate goal. If they can keep finishing close games like they did in Seattle - and like they for the vast majority of the season - they could very well be the toughest out in this year's tournament.

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