On 4th down in the final quarter, New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty decided to throw the ball toward Robby Anderson in the end zone, and was broken up by Pro-Bowl cornerback Casey Hayward. That play broke the spirit of the Jets as the Los Angeles Chargers held on for the 14-7 win at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Sunday afternoon.
If the Kansas City Chiefs win one more game, the Chargers cannot win the AFC West. And the only way Los Angeles can get a wild card spot is if the Ravens (8-6) or Titans (8-6) get the No. 5 seed, the other loses both their remaining games to finish 8-8, and the Chargers finish tied with the Bills for the No. 6 seed at 9-7, because they beat the Bills in Week 11.
Chargers tight end Hunter Henry, the team's third-leading receiver with 579 yards and four touchdowns, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday because of a lacerated kidney suffered against the Chiefs. Running back Austin Ekeler broke his hand and was out of action. The Bolts were without middle linebacker Denzel Perryman with a hamstring tendon strain, and Corey Liguet.
After a lethargic start by both the Chargers' and Jets' offenses, Los Angeles finally found their rhythm in the second quarter when Philip Rivers connected with Antonio Gates for a huge 27-yard catch for a first down. The Bolts caught a break when Rivers threw a pass for Tyrell Williams in the end zone, but couldn't hold on due to a pass interference penalty.
Two plays later, Rivers found Gates for the 3-yard touchdown catch and the 7-0 lead. That's the 114th touchdown catch of Gates' career, but his just third of the season. It's also the 87th time that Rivers and Gates have connected in the end zone.
The Jets offense gets off of life support as Bilal Powell ran thought the holes and outran every Chargers opponent for a 57-yard touchdown. That tied the game 7-7 early in the third quarter.
C. Jonathan Harrison started his first game for the Jets, and provided protection the entire way for Powell down the sidelines to the end zone.
Rivers answered quickly as he spread the ball around to Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen and Sean McGrath, who caught an imperative pass near the 2-yard line. Next play, Gordon spun around for the one-yard touchdown and the 14-7 lead. Gordon scored his 8th touchdown of the season. On the next drive Gordon had a 7-yard run that gave him over 1,000 yards rushing, the first time the Bolts had a 1,000 yard rusher in Gordon and a 1,000 yard receiver in Allen since 2013.
Bryce Petty overcame a horrible first half and made sure that he beat the Chargers with his legs, since his arm wasn't getting the job done in the second half. Two solid runs by Petty kept the Jets offensive drive alive in the final quarter. The Jets didn't enter the red zone until midway through the fourth quarter, which spoke well for the Chargers defense all afternoon.
The Chargers remain alive in the playoff hunt due to the Los Angeles Rams victory over the Tennessee Titans, and the New England Patriots victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Philip Rivers completed 22-of-40 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown. Rivers passed 4,000 yards on the season for the ninth time in his illustrious career. He's only the fourth quarterback to ever accomplish that milestone.
Running back Melvin Gordon currently has 1,012 yards on the season, and left the game late in the fourth quarter with a mild left ankle injury. Gordon is expected to be available for the Dec. 31 showdown against the Oakland Raiders at Stub Hub Center.
"He'll be listed a day-to-day; it's an injury that he's nursed all week," Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said on the status of Gordon this coming week. "It's an ankle he was dealing with all (last) week."
Byrce Petty completed 15-of-28 passes for 119 yards and one interception. Petty was also sacked three times in the loss to the Chargers. Running back Bilal Powell finished with 19 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown on Sunday.