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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Here we go!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SAN DIEGO ---- The last 80 seconds of Sunday's showdown between the Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills took more than 15 minutes. That wasn't the case at Invesco Field, but an untimely information drought prolonged the suspense some 30,000 feet up. That left an ESPN ticker as the only news source on the charter flight escorting the Chargers home after a victory at Tampa Bay.

A season was at stake, and its outcome remained a mystery as inconsequential results passed by. Finally, pertinent information scrolled into view. Bills 30, Broncos 23. Final. The plane went into hysterics in celebration of a sentiment clearly evident during Monday afternoon's press conference at Chargers Park.

A great weight has been lifted. After a season full of heartbreaking losses and ill-timed underachievement put them in a bind, the Chargers regained control.

No more scoreboard watching. No more cursing Ed Hochuli. No more hoping for help.

The AFC West title is on the line on Sunday against Denver at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Chargers win, they're in the playoffs.

"It's exciting I'll tell you what," Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson said. "That plane ride was pretty long. They wouldn't give us the down and distance and exactly what was going on (on the ticker). It was pretty fun experiencing that as a team. Here we are, with one meaningful game to go. We're not in there yet, but at least we have a chance."

That was tough to imagine three weeks ago, after a loss to the visiting Atlanta Falcons dropped the Chargers to 4-8. The Broncos' magic number was at one, and thanks to a pair of Chargers victories and Denver losses, it hasn't changed.

"It's a blessing for us," Chargers tight end Antonio Gates said. "Despite the situations we've had the whole season, we continue to scratch and claw for wins. We're finally in a situation where we can control our own destiny."

The Chargers have somehow crawled out of a hole dug themselves, one that seemed six feet deep as far as this season was concerned. It was a surprising position and a stark contrast to the lofty expectations set for a supposed Super Bowl contender in a weak division.

"We felt confident that we'd have a strong year," Jackson said. "Looking back on it, some of those last-minute losses jumped on our backs and slowed us down. It took a little while to recover but we learned about resiliency and we showed it late in the year."

The Chargers were able to focus on the present, maybe because prospects of a playoff berth were so remote, have rattled off wins when it counted most and put together their most complete performance of the season against the Buccaneers.

"This month has tested the true character of this Chargers team," Gates said.

"We wanted to finish the season strong, no matter what happened with other teams and no matter what happened during the previous 12 games. We wanted to take care of our business and let everything else work itself out."

The Chargers did their part and the Broncos failed to do theirs, which has given the Chargers a real chance at redemption.

"I'd be lying if I said I hadn't watched the scoreboard, but I haven't made it a regular practice either," Chargers head coach Norv Turner said. "I did last night, after we won the game. Our only chance was to win the game and hope something good happened. Now we have an opportunity to win a game and have something real good happen for us."

Chargers notes

Chargers head coach Norv Turner shed light on the Chargers injury situation at Monday's press conference. WR Malcom Floyd (collapsed lung) is doubtful to play against the Broncos. LB Brandon Siler injured his foot during Sunday's pre-game warm-ups and had X-rays on Monday. LB Anthony Waters (hamstring) has a chance to be activated for the Denver game and DT Jamal Williams (foot) will be limited in practice but is expected to play in the regular-season finale.