Lions rout Chargers 38-10 to clinch playoff spot

By Larry Lage

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Dec. 24 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

Stafford was almost perfect in the first half against San Diego, completing 21 of 26 passes for 260 yards with three TDs. He capped the first drive with a 7-yard pass to Brandon Pettigrew, threw a 3-yarder to Kevin Smith in the second quarter and connected with Calvin Johnson from 14 yards just before halftime to give the Lions a 24-0 lead.

"His numbers at halftime were outrageous," Raiola said. "He's the real deal."

Stafford finished with 373 yards passing to give him 4,518 this year, breaking Scott Mitchell's single-season team record from 1995. Perhaps not coincidently, that season marked the last time the Lions had double digits in wins.

The Lions will go for their 11th victory and try to improve their playoff positioning on Jan. 1 against Green Bay, a team they haven't beaten on the road since 1991.

The Chargers needed to extend their winning streak to four games to keep their postseason hopes alive, but the loss and Cincinnati's victory dashed them.

They had chances to come back.

Eric Weddle recovered an onside kick after San Diego finally scored in the third quarter, but the Chargers stalled inside the Lions 5. Cornerback Chris Houston broke up a pass in the end zone and the Chargers had to settle for Nick Novak's field goal and a 14-point deficit.

Detroit's potent offense quickly gained 48 yards on a third-quarter drive with passes to Nate Burleson and Johnson, setting up Smith's 6-yard TD and a 31-10 lead.

The Chargers then drove to the Detroit 2 and turned over the ball on downs, firing up its sideline and the fans who have been waiting a long time for a season like this one. It's the first time the Lions have made the playoffs since Ford Field opened in 2002.

"This is an accomplishment," Schwartz said. "It's a big step for our team and our organization."

San Diego, meanwhile, has taken another step back.

Rivers was 28 of 53 for 299 yards with a too-late TD and two interceptions, the second of which defensive end Cliff Avril snagged with his right hand and returned 4 yards to make it 38-10 late in the game.

Antonio Gates had four receptions to give him 588 in his career, breaking the Chargers record of 586 set by Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner, in his hometown of Detroit in front of family and friends.

"They were all here," Gates said. "It's just disappointing that we couldn't get a victory along with me crossing that milestone."

NOTES: Johnson matched a single-season team record with 15 TD receptions. ... Chargers LB Na'il Diggs, who had trouble defending Pettigrew, left the game in the third quarter with cramps in his right leg.

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