Starters rested, clinch homefield in win

The San Diego Chargers wrapped up homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the Arizona Cardinals – one in which they were able to pull and rest their starters but they also received a scare. The Cardinals were able to make it close with 13 unanswered points.

With a minute and a half left in the third quarter and a 27-10 lead, Philip Rivers was removed from the game in favor of Billy Volek. LaDainian Tomlinson was left on the sidelines with Michael Turner carrying the load. Homefield advantage throughout the playoffs wrapped up with the 17-point lead, it was time to for a well-deserved rest.

Rivers put any concerns to rest, hitting on 19-of-24 passes for 231 yards with two touchdowns. Things didn't start off quite as well.

The Arizona Cardinals turned a Rivers interception into a 78-yard touchdown drive on their opening possession when Monty Beisel picked off Rivers at the Arizona 11-yard line.. Anquan Boldin accounted for 58 yards and Edgerrin James punched it in from eight yards out for the early 7-0 lead.

Rivers would be solid the rest of the way, despite playing on an ankle that he had taped in the second quarter after rolling it on a sack. He hobbled through the game but hit nearly every pass along the way.

The Chargers answered Arizona's touchdown with an eight-play drive that resulted in a 47-yard Nate Kaeding field goal.

The Bolts would take the lead on their next drive. Rivers hit on 4-of-5 for 82 yards, hitting Antonio Gates for a 33-yard touchdown to cap the drive and give San Diego a 10-7 lead.

The Chargers completed a 79-yard drive that took ten plays when Rivers threaded a bullet to Vincent Jackson for a 14-yard touchdown and 17-7 lead.

On the Chargers first punt and first three-and-out of the game, Bryant Johnson missed a fair catch inside the ten-yard line on a 55-yard Mike Scifres punt and linebacker Tim Dobbins pounced on the ball in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.

Kaeding added a 35-yard field goal to give San Diego a 27-7 lead.

Kurt Warner connected with John Bronson and Leonard Pope for passes of 25 and 35 yards, respectively, to quickly put the Cardinals into the red zone. The Chargers defense held stout, forcing a 28-yard Neil Rackers field goal.

Arizona closed the gap to ten points with a four-minute drive in the fourth quarter. Warner hit Johnson on successive plays for 40 yards before connecting with Larry Fitzgerald for a nine-yard touchdown.

Boldin swatted San Diego defenders away at will en route to a 64-yard gain that setup a Rackers 20-yard field goal, putting Arizona within seven points, 27-20.

Turner would seal the deal with three runs that yielded a first down and ran the clock down to the two-minute warning. Lorenzo Neal then put the punctuation mark with a 43-yard run, allowing the Chargers to take a knee.

Tomlinson rushed for 66 yards on 16 carries to claim the 2006 NFL rushing title with 1,815 yards – the first San Diego Charger to ever win the rushing title.


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