(Sports Network) - Better save those postmortems for the San Diego Chargers for one more week. Chances are you'll still need them, but you'd better keep a feel-good story in reserve in case the obituary turns out not to be appropriate.
The four-item superfecta the Chargers needed in order to re-assume control of their destiny as Week 15 began, is now halfway complete after Denver was outclassed in Carolina (30-10) and San Diego pulled off a monumental 22-21 comeback against the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday.
Having trailed the entire game and facing a 21-10 deficit as the two-minute warning hit, the Chargers finally ended a 15-play, 89-yard drive with a four- yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Malcolm Floyd with 1:13 to play, cutting the deficit to 21-16.
Needing a break on the onside kick, the Chargers got it when Kassim Osgood hauled in a ball that bounced off Chiefs wideout Dwayne Bowe's chest to secure the recovery.
Needing another break on the ensuing drive, the Chargers instead received two when Rivers hit Vincent Jackson on a 10-yard touchdown pass at the 40 second mark, just two plays after the pair connected on a 42-yard pass play that put San Diego within reach of the end zone.
The one-point road win was quite a switch for a team that had turned losing close contests into something of an art form in 2008.
"We've got a group of guys that are a confident group," said head coach Norv Turner following the win. "They just kept fighting. They felt we could find a way to win the game and we made a bunch of plays there in the last 10 minutes to go find a way to win."
Having something to talk about as Week 16 begins is all well and good for San Diego, though frankly, all the Bolts have done was pull off the easy part of the equation.
The Chargers were supposed to beat Kansas City, and the Broncos were predicted by most to fall in Carolina, but the underdog/favorite script is flipped this week.
The Bolts, who have not been a good road team this year, will now have to travel cross-country to Tampa Bay (9-5) to face a Buccaneers club fighting for its own playoff life after back-to-back losses.
Find a way to win that, and the Chargers will then have to hope against hope that the Buffalo Bills, losers of seven of their last eight, can go to Denver and beat the Broncos on the road for the first time since...gulp...1967.
"We're alive," Turner said. "We've known it's going to be difficult, but the only control we have is getting ready to go play and play at the best level we can in Tampa. We're playing a very good football team that has a lot to play for. It'll be a real challenge for us.
"Obviously it's not in our hands. The only thing that's in our hands is finding a way to play our best this week and then see what happens."
BRONCOS: By the time the Broncos take the field for their matchup against the Bills on Sunday at Invesco Field at Mile High, they should know exactly what their game means.
The Chargers and Buccaneers will play in the early slot on Sunday afternoon, and Mike Shanahan and company will either be playing to avoid a Week 17 showdown between what would be a red-hot San Diego team and a potentially fading Denver group, or it will be playing simply to wash away the sour taste of last week's uninspiring 30-10 loss at Carolina.
Either way, Shanahan insists that Broncos/Bills will be meaningful.
"We are going to concentrate on our game," said the head coach on Monday. "We are not going to have the TV on or the scoreboard giving the score. We are going to try and take care of business and play our best game and not worry about something we can't control. I think I made a mistake by allowing that to happen on Sunday. It does take some emotion out of you. Hopefully we can control our own destiny."
The self-described emotionless performance against Carolina included less- than-stellar individual outings across the board. Quarterback Jay Cutler (21- of-33 passing, 172 yards) struggled to finish off drives, there were zero notable big plays out of the running back or receiving corps, the defense had little clue against Steve Smith (9 receptions, 165 yards, 1 TD) or the Panthers running game (28 carries, 140 yards, 2 TD for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart), and kicker Matt Prater missed another field goal, the seventh miss in his last 15 attempts.
In other words, the stakes of the game shouldn't be the only thing motivating the Broncos to play well on Sunday.
"You always want to play your best in December," said Shanahan. "If you get to the playoffs you want to have a chance to prove that you deserve to be there. I think for young guys it is important to reach the playoffs so they can see what it is like to play another playoff-caliber team. We haven't been there in a couple years and I think it would be a plus for our young players to have that experience."
CHIEFS: Twenty years to the week that he was named President, General Manager, and Chief Operating Officer of the Chiefs by since-deceased owner Lamar Hunt, Kansas City's Carl Peterson announced on Monday that he would be stepping down from that role, effective at the end of the season.
"I am proud of my association with the Kansas City Chiefs and our many accomplishments over the last 20 years," Peterson said in a statement. "I thank the Hunt family for the opportunity to lead the Chiefs organization and sincerely appreciate all the coaches, players, administrators and Chiefs employees with whom I've had the pleasure of working in my time here. Most importantly, I want to thank Chiefs fans around the country for their passionate support through the years. Chiefs fans are the finest in all of professional football."
Peterson has come under fire of late, as the once-proud organization is mired in a 2-21 stretch of football dating back to last season. But prior to those dark days, the Chiefs had been among the winningest (13 winning seasons between 1989 and 2006) and most talented (66 Pro Bowlers from the start of the free agency era in 1993 through 2006) franchises in the league.
Whether Peterson is better known for those successes or for his inability to preside over a Super Bowl participant remains to be seen, but the respect for the longtime executive in league circles is great.
"On behalf of my family and the entire Kansas City Chiefs organization, I want to thank Carl for his two decades of service to the Chiefs," said owner Clark Hunt in a statement. "Both Carl and I agreed that immediately initiating the search for the next Chiefs General Manager would be the best thing for the future of the organization, and he will be resigning following the 2008 season."
What Peterson's departure means for embattled head coach Herm Edwards is unknown, though it is possible that the next general manager would seek to bring in his own coach, or that the Hunt family would give full coaching/general manager authority to one person.
The team announced on Monday that the search for a new GM would begin immediately, and that Executive Vice President/COO Denny Thum would serve as the Chiefs interim President and General Manager until that time.
RAIDERS: The hard feelings between the Raiders organization and former coach Lane Kiffin didn't get any softer on Monday, when it was revealed that Oakland offensive line coach James Cregg had left the team with two games to play to join Kiffin's new staff at the University of Tennessee.
This time, Oakland owner Al Davis did not step forward in a burlap hoodie and leather jacket to publicly voice his disapproval with Kiffin, though it is perhaps more telling that interim head coach Tom Cable was highly critical of his former boss.
"I've got a lot of respect for (Kiffin) - had a lot of respect for him - and then to do this is ridiculous," said Cable. "It's wrong, wrong in the business of coaching."
"I'm pissed," Cable added. "That's the best way to put it. Quite frankly, that's the only way to put it."
"I think it's the wrong way to handle things," Cable said. "I'm disappointed by all these things, mostly by the fact that someone would quit this organization, this football team and this head coach at this juncture. It's wrong."
Cregg had been promoted from the role of assistant offensive line coach when Cable was elevated to head coach prior to Week 6. Cable said on Monday that he would re-assume his duties coaching the offensive line in addition to his responsibilities as the head man.