Chargers 27, Bengals 10

Turned over: Chargers cornerback Shareece Wright, left, intercepts a pass intended for Bengals receiver Mohamed Sanu in the third quarter. San Diego picked off Andy Dalton twice among four turnovers forced; Cincinnati remained without a playoff win since 1990. Story, 5C

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Turned over: Chargers cornerback Shareece Wright, left, intercepts a pass intended for Bengals receiver Mohamed Sanu in the third quarter. San Diego picked off Andy Dalton twice among four turnovers forced; Cincinnati remained without a playoff win since 1990. Story, 5C

CINCINNATI — Dump it off to the running back, hand it off, let the field goal kicker take it from there.

Philip Rivers didn't have to do a whole lot to get a playoff win. Not with San Diego's defense dominating.

And not with Andy Dalton coming apart in the playoffs again.

The Chargers took advantage of Dalton's three turnovers in the second half on Sunday for a 27-10 victory that extended San Diego's late-season surge and pushed the Bengals' postseason misery to record levels.

With Rivers making accurate throws in the chilling rain, the Chargers (10-7) won their fifth in a row, beating the last team that had knocked them off. They'll play next Sunday in Denver, the AFC's top seed.

San Diego lost at home to its West division rival 28-20 on Nov. 10, then went to Denver and got a rejuvenating 27-20 victory on Dec. 12.

"We will be confident," said Rivers, who was 12 of 16 for 128 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions on a rainy, 40-degree afternoon. "We've got to be careful we're not overconfident, which we won't be. Cincinnati came to our place and won five weeks ago."

The Bengals (11-6), who won in San Diego 17-10 on Dec. 1, turned it over four times on Sunday. Dalton's fumble and two interceptions in the second half led to one of the most stunning losses in franchise history. The Bengals had been 8-0 at home and owned the NFL's No. 3 defense.

With everything in their favor, they unraveled in the second half, getting outscored 20-0.

The Bengals, who have not won a playoff game since 1990, have the sixth-longest streak of playoff futility in league history. They've also lost their playoff opener three straight years, matching a league record done by eight other teams.

"Whatever you do during the regular season doesn't matter once you get to the playoffs," said Dalton, 0-3 in the playoffs. "It's disappointing. All the good stuff we did this year, then to come out and not win this game kind of hurts."

Coach Marvin Lewis fell to 0-5 in the playoffs during his 11 seasons as coach, but is expected to stick around and get another chance to try again.

A lot of it falls on Dalton, who has a trilogy of bad playoff games. He fumbled and threw two interceptions in the second half. Dalton finished 29 of 51 for 334 yards with a below-average passer rating of 67. In his three first-round playoff losses, Dalton has thrown one touchdown pass and six interceptions.

He wasn't the only one with a big gaffe. Rookie running back Giovani Bernard fumbled at the San Diego 3-yard line after a catch in the first half.

The Bengals' 10 points were a season low at Paul Brown Stadium, where they had scored 49, 41, 41, 42 and 34 in their previous five games.

Meanwhile, the Chargers carry on as the AFC's hottest team.

"We're loose, we're confident, we're peaking at the right time," safety Eric Weddle said. "We are a team to be dealt with. We're a confident bunch, especially in the second half, in the fourth quarter. We feel we're ready for those situations. The pressure is not going to get to us."

Chargers 27, Bengals 10 01/05/14 [Last modified: Monday, January 6, 2014 12:08am]

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