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Chargers face the chill of Cincinnati in Wild Card on CTV

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The Sports Network
1/5/2014 10:18:01 AM
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CINCINNATI - Call it a sequel 32 years in the making.

For the first time since the famous "Freezer Bowl," the San Diego Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals will square off in the NFL playoffs on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

You can see all the action on CTV beginning at 1pm et/10am pt.

Early forecasts for Sunday's game have the temperature reaching into the low 40s, certainly a positive development for the Southern California-based Chargers and a stark contrast from the last time San Diego visited the Queen City for a postseason game.

In NFL lore, the "Freezer Bowl" was the AFC Championship Game between the Chargers and the Bengals on Jan. 10, 1982. The Bengals won that one going way, 27-7, in what was the coldest temperature in NFL history in terms of wind chill. Air temperature was minus-9 on that day with the wind chill dipping down to minus-37 due to sustained 27 mph winds.

No one in their right mind wants to play in that kind of weather again but the Bengals probably wouldn't mind taking another 10 or 15 degrees off the current forecast.

There was a massive cold front ahead of the relatively balmy temperatures forecasted for Sunday and another looms behind it with the National Weather Service forecasting an 80 percent chance that snow and rain will fall Sunday in Cincinnati, with some of it likely coming during the game.

"Accumulating snow is expected," the weather service said in an advisory. "Snow will change to rain during the afternoon."

Either way, though, Cincinnati, which will be shooting for its first playoff win in 23 years, doesn't figure to be a hospitable place for any opponent because the AFC North champion Bengals finished the regular season a perfect 8-0 record on their home field.

"They have to come here to "The Jungle" and deal with our weather and our fans," Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry said. "We'll see if we get the best out of them."

The Bengals' last win at Paul Brown Stadium may have been the most satisfying as they knocked their division rival and the reigning Super Bowl champion Ravens out of the postseason hunt last Sunday.

Andy Dalton ran for the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter in that one as Cincinnati closed out the regular season with a 34-17 triumph.

Dalton had an uneven performance with two touchdown passes and four interceptions but Baltimore could only turn those miscues into a trio of Justin Tucker field goals. He finished 21-of-36 overall for 281 yards as the Bengals (11-5) posted an unblemished home record for just the second time in franchise history.

Cincinnati scored the final 17 points after squandering a 17-6 halftime lead.

"We overcame the turnovers early and did a great job again in the red zone on defense, holding them to field goals early in the game," said Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis. "We got the lead back and then kind of went to work on offense."

The Chargers, meanwhile, got in the postseason by the skin of their teeth. Kept alive by a pair of losses earlier in the day, including Baltimore's loss to Cincy, San Diego rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to post a 27-24 overtime win over Kansas City to nail down the AFC's final wild-card spot and end a three-year playoff drought.

"It's been a real long time so it feels great to be back in," said Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who finished tops in the NFL in completion percentage with a stunning 69.5 rate.

Nick Novak kicked a pair of clutch field goals, the first coming with 3:21 remaining in regulation and the other giving San Diego a 27-24 edge in the extra session, while Rivers threw three touchdown passes to help the Chargers outlast a surprisingly competitive Kansas City squad fielding predominantly backups.

San Diego remained in contention when both Miami and the Ravens lost prior to kickoff, then got another gift when the Chiefs' Ryan Succop pulled a would-be game-winning 41-yard field goal try wide right with four seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Rivers, who finished 22-of-33 for 229 yards with an interception, began the Chargers' comeback with a 6-yard touchdown toss to Eddie Royal early in the fourth quarter, while Ryan Mathews ran for 144 yards on 24 carries in San Diego's fifth straight triumph to close out the regular season.

"A great team effort," said Chargers coach Mike McCoy. "The one thing I'll say about this team and I've said it since day one, the character of the organization and the players we have here never gave up."

A day after the game, however, the NFL was forced to admit an officiating error that would have given Succop a second opportunity to send San Diego packing from five yards closer.

"With 0:08 remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers, Kansas City faced a 4th-and-12 from the San Diego 23. The Chiefs attempted a 41-yard field that was no good.

"On the play, San Diego lined up with seven men on one side of the snapper. This should have been penalized as an illegal formation by the defense.

"The penalty for illegal formation by the defense is a loss of five yards. This is not subject to instant replay review. Had the penalty been assessed, it would have resulted in a 4th-and-7 from the San Diego 18 with 0:04 remaining, enabling the Chiefs to attempt a 36-yard field goal."

If the correct call was made and Succop connected, the Pittsburgh Steelers would have been visiting the Bengals this weekend.

San Diego holds a 19-13 overall advantage against the Bengals but Cincinnati topped the Chargers in the Golden State on Dec. 1, 17-10, when BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 92 yards and a TD and A.J. Green added five catches for 83 yards and another score. Meanwhile, Rivers recorded a season-low passer rating of 80.0 and San Diego turned it over three times.

"I want to be very respectful because they had a lot to do with it," Rivers said. "They caused the turnovers and they covered us. Some of it may not have been the best throw. They certainly were out there causing us to not get in the end zone and our execution wasn't great. We've got to execute better."

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