SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Chargers scored 17 second-half points against a stubborn Tennessee Titans defense to pull out a hard-fought 17-6 victory in Sunday’s AFC Wild-Card Game.
The Chargers rallied from a 6-0 halftime deficit where the Titans had dominated the game, but had just two Rob Bironas field goals to show for it.
San Diego (12-5) now travels to Indianapolis to face the second-seeded Colts in next week’s divisional playoffs, while the Titans end their season at 10-7.
The Chargers opened the second half with an 86-yard drive that ended with a Nate Kaeding field goal to get them on the scoreboard, then took the lead later in the period on a Philip Rivers to Vincent Jackson 25-yard touchdown pass. The go-ahead drive was aided by an offsides and personal foul penalty on Tennessee’s Albert Haynesworth who came across the line and decked Rivers before the ball was snapped.
After Rob Bironas missed a 38-yard field goal wide led that would have trimmed the Charger lead to 10-9, San Diego put the game away with its ensuing march. LaDainian Tomlinson, bottled up most of the day by Tennessee’s defense, was stopped short on fourth-and-goal at the 1, but reached the ball over the goal line on second effort. It withstood a Titans challenge and gave the Chargers an 11-point lead.
The underdog Titans dominated the first half, but still led just 6-0 at the break.
The Titans took a 3-0 lead in the rain on their first series of the game, marching 61 yards in 13 plays with Vince Young getting a key 16-yard pass to fullback Ahmard Hall on the third play of the game for a first down.
The Titans reached the San Diego 12 on the drive before settling for a Bironas 30-yard field goal.
Tennessee put up seven first downs in the first quarter and held the Chargers, a 10-point favorite to no first downs in the first period.
The Titans had a chance to add to their lead, but Chris Brown’s fumble that Shaun Phillips recovered at the 9-yard line ended a second-quarter scoring threat.
Tennessee held Tomlinson in check for the first half as well, limiting him to six yards on seven carries. They also turned away a San Diego threat when Cortland Finnegan intercepted a Rivers deep pass for Chris Chambers in the end zone.
Tennessee’s defense held again when Kaeding missed a 45-yard field goal attempt with 3:06 to play in the half. Two plays before that, Chargers star tight end Antonio Gates was carted off the field with a left toe injury after being hit by Tennessee’s Tony Brown and David Thornton on a pass reception.
The Titans added to the lead on their final drive of the half as Young took them 39 yards in 11 plays and Bironas hit a 44-yard field goal at the end of the half for the six-point lead.
White had 61 yards rushing on 15 carries at the half, but finished with just 69 yards on 17 carries in the game.