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Steve Gregory #28 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates his interception for a touchdown with Eric Weddle #32 and Antoine Cason #20 against the Buffalo Bills at Qualcomm Stadium on December 11, 2011 in San Diego, California. The Chargers won 37-10.
The whispers walked up the Qualcomm Stadium tunnel Sunday and into the home locker room, firing updates into the ears of Chargers players.
"He hit like a 60-yard field goal," one Chargers staff member said.
"It's still in overtime," hushed another.
The players confidently bobbed their head despite the ongoing comeback of the Denver Broncos, and their message was palpable.
They're still in this race. They can feel it.
As he does, quarterback Tim Tebow would lead his Broncos to an overtime victory, which played out on a television as Chargers coach Norv Turner made his post-game speech. But the Chargers controlled what they could control, dismantling the Buffalo Bills 37-10 for their second consecutive blowout victory.
Three games remain, and only three Chargers wins with three Broncos losses can win the Bolts an AFC West title, a tall order similar to the 2008 season's rare finish when the Broncos lost out with four games to go while the Chargers won out to claim the division at 8-8.
"I've got the same feeling I had four years ago," running back Mike Tolbert said, "my rookie year, when we were back four games with four games left, and we made it happen. We just kept rolling to finish out the season. I've got that same feeling. But obviously, we need help."
Denver has up next: New England Patrots, at Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chargers host the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night and travel to face the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders.
Regardless of what rabbit trick Tebow pulls next, the Chargers do stay in the playoff hunt if they win out, potentially figuring into the final wild-card spot.
They hurdled this first obstacle in style, never trailing against a hapless Bills squad, which dropped its sixth straight.
The one twisting moment came when Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers lost grip of the football before motioning to pass, and safety Bryan Scott recovered in the end zone to cut the lead to 16-10 with 10:11 remaining in the third quarter.
The Chargers seemed set to go three-and-out on the ensuing possession, but coach Norv Turner and special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia dialed up a fake punt at their own 30-yard line. Safety Eric Weddle had the authority to audible out of it, but despite a less-than-ideal look, he swept 10 yards left to convert the 4th and 2.
"It wasn't necessarily the look we perfectly wanted, but it was good enough," said Weddle, who also intercepted his seventh pass, tying him for the NFL lead with New England's Kyle Arrington. "I just felt like even if something happens or a guy wraps around (the edge), I could make a guy miss, and it would be a first down."
With the drive extended, Rivers ultimately found tight end Antonio Gates for a two-yard touchdown. It was Gates' second score of the day, and he became the 27th player in NFL history with 75 touchdown receptions.
After the kickoff, Chargers safety Steve Gregory, dropped into a cover-2 zone, picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick, returning it 26 yards for the sixth-year veteran's first career touchdown.
Just like that, the Chargers led 30-10, momentum was on their side, and the only AFC West game left undecided resided in Denver.
But they can't control what happens there, be it this weekend or the next three.
"I know what's going on, but honestly, just try to stay like a race horse with the blinders on," center Nick Hardwick said. "Just run your race, and see what happens."