Sometimes, it's OK to be both really, really lucky -- and also good.
Meet your 2013 San Diego Chargers, who earned a trip to the playoffs with a little -- who am I kidding, a lot -- of help from a variety of friends.
Then, as if the football gods were smiling on sunny San Diego, Kansas City coach Andy Reid, knowing that his team had its playoff spot locked down despite getting beaten up in Week 16 by the Colts, oddly decided to rest his starters vs. the Bolts. No Jamaal Charles. No Alex Smith. No key defenders suiting up for "the Chiefs." All Mike McCoy's squad had to do was beat Chase Daniel at home.
If only it had been that easy.
Truth be told, K.C.'s backups inexplicably outplayed the Chargers in the game that allowed San Diego to join the playoff party. It was relatively stunning -- and, frankly, unacceptable. Still, Chargers fans -- kicked around, tormented and Norved throughout the years -- don't care about the aesthetic quality. They've been on the other side. They know they got a win, plain and simple.
And the wackiness had just begun. In overtime, Eric Weddle audibled for a fake punt from the Chargers' 28-yard line, a stunning decision. Weddle appeared to lose the ball and Kansas City subsequently returned it for what seemed like a game-ending touchdown -- only to have the turnover wiped away by referee Bill Leavy, who ruled that Weddle had gained the first down before his forward progress had stopped. I thought it was forward progress, but it was never fully explained by Leavy. Regardless, the Chargers were still alive -- and they went on to take the lead for good on the drive.
That play and the missed field-goal attempt will be talked about in Pittsburgh for a long time, as the Steelers, who trounced the Browns, would have made it to the playoffs with a Chargers loss. Steelers fans will not take heart in Monday morning's admission by the NFL that San Diego should have incurred an illegal-formation penalty on the kick, meaning Kansas City should have been given a chance to boot it again from 36 yards out.
Confusing? Controversial? Convoluted? You bet. The Chargers will take it. Send thank-you cards to Succop and Leavy.
Yes, the ride in Week 17 was wild. But for the good of the playoffs, the right team made it to the dance. San Diego earned it.
Overshadowed in the AFC West by the genius of Peyton Manning, Rivers' outstanding 2013 campaign flew under the radar. Coming off a dreadful, interception-filled two-year stretch, Rivers threw for 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns -- fifth- and fourth-best in the NFL, respectively -- against just 11 picks, completing 69.5 percent of his passes. That was a tremendous season and turnaround, for which Rivers deserves credit -- and McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt deserve praise.
Speaking of credit, Mathews should get some for providing needed balance, rumbling for 1,255 yards after limping to just 707 in 2012. Remember, this is the combination that protected the ball, controlled the clock and shocked the Broncos in Denver on NFL Network a few weeks ago. And this duo should cause problems for the Bengals when Cincinnati faces the Chargersin the wild-card round this weekend, despite a Cincy defense that is superbly coached by coordinator Mike Zimmer.
Let's be honest. Which quarterback would you put your faith in: Dalton or Rivers?
Sunday's heart-stopping insanity made it a quintessential day for Chargers fans, right? This team has looked brilliant this year -- and it's also had mind-numbing losses to the Raidersand Titans. Nothing was worse than the excruciating overtime defeat to the lowly Redskins in early November, a game that featured play-calling and execution from the 1-yard line in the dwindling moments of regulation that was straight out of the Norv Turner playbook.
Ultimately, though, San Diego was better than Baltimore, Miami and Pittsburgh.
The Chargers have more upside. And McCoy, who has been fantastic overall in his first year as an NFL head coach, has the matchup he needs.