OAKLAND, Calif. — Norv Turner walked around the San Diego Chargers' locker room, all smiles, thanking players for the effort and congratulating them for finishing strong.
Maybe for the last time.
If Turner's tenure in San Diego really, truly is over, at least his players sent him out a winner. And in typical Turner fashion, it again might've come too late.
Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes and Richard Goodman returned a kickoff 105 yards for another score, giving the Chargers a 38-26 victory over the Oakland Raiders to keep its AFC West rival out of the playoffs.
"I hope it's not the end," Rivers said of his time with Turner. "I'd be super disappointed."
The Chargers could only celebrate playing the role of spoiler in Turner's possible farewell.
The Raiders (8-8) began the final day of the regular season needing a win and help to end an eight-year playoff drought. They received the support they needed when Denver (8-8) lost 7-3 at home to Kansas City but were unable to do their part by beating the Chargers (8-8). The Broncos won the division based on record versus common opponents.
If Turner's time has ended in Southern California, he ended his tenure with an offensive masterpiece: San Diego never punted, committed just one turnover and gained 463 yards.
Whether it's enough to keep his job, Turner stayed away from any last-minute lobbying.
"I don't need to answer that. There's going to be a decision made, and you'll all know what it is," he said. "And what my opinion is right now probably doesn't have a lot of effect. I'll leave it at that."
At the very least, the Chargers gave the franchise's front-office something to think about.
Rivers completed 19 for 26 passes for 310 yards and showed his best on a key drive in the fourth quarter after Oakland sliced San Diego's lead to 31-26 with 9:37 to go.
After Goodman mishandled the kickoff to force the Chargers to start from inside their 1, Rivers completed a 20-yard pass to Malcom Floyd, Mike Tolbert ran for 40 yards and Rivers threw a 43-yard TD pass to Floyd to make it a two-score game.
Antoine Cason then intercepted Carson Palmer with 4:36 to go at the San Diego 20 to seal the victory for the Chargers and provide a disappointing finish to what had been a promising season for the Raiders.
"It wasn't our goal to end their season," Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson said, "but it is kind of nice because we're going home as well."
San Diego finally sprinted to a strong start under Turner, going 4-1 and rising into AFC contenders. Then the Chargers fell apart as Rivers struggled, penalties and frustration mounted, and injuries hit.
Even though the Chargers got back to .500, that's not the territory many had projected.
"What we went through this year, injury wise, bad quarterback play, some of that, he can't control any of that," Rivers said. "And then to look up and go, 'Man, they're 4-7 and they've fallen back at 8-8. And in what many would call a meaningless game, to go out and play the way we did. It's disappointing knowing 9-7 would have got you in.
"It's unfortunate the way the year has gone," Rivers said, "but I believe Norv's the guy."
Sending the Raiders home turned out to be a consolation prize.
Oakland seemed in control in the AFC West after beating Chicago 25-20 on Nov. 27 to improve to 7-4. But they lost four of their final five games, including squandering a late 13-point lead at home to Detroit two weeks ago to finish out of the postseason for the ninth straight year.
Palmer, acquired in a midseason trade with Cincinnati after starter Jason Campbell broke his collarbone, delivered the kind of performance the Raiders expected, throwing for 417 yards and two touchdowns.
But Oakland had to settle for four field goals by Sebastian Janikowski, mismanaged the clock late in the first half and could never stop Rivers and the Chargers offense.
The Raiders did set single-season records for penalties and yards penalized by committing eight for 64 yards. That gave them 163 for 1,358 yards, surpassing the totals of 158 for 1,304 set by the 1998 Chiefs.
The game started off well as Oakland drove 95 yards on its first possession to score on Palmer's 3-yard TD pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey. The drive was aided by a pair of personal fouls against San Diego, including one that got Chargers leading sacker Antwan Barnes ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct.
But Oakland then allowed a 38-yard TD pass from Rivers to Antonio Gates, a 1-yard run by Tolbert after a pass interference call in the end zone against Stanford Routt tied the single-season penalty record and Goodman's return.
The Raiders trailed 24-13 at the break, missing a chance at points in the closing seconds when they completed a 6-yard pass to Louis Murphy inbounds with 8 seconds and were unable to stop the clock.
Only time will tell if Turner still has a job in San Diego next season.Comment on this story
"We had great guys and they've never backed down from what we've asked them to do," Turner said. "I know it's hard for everyone else on the outside, but they know what they've been through and they know the situations that we've had to handle. And I think that makes it even more special, the fact that we've finished and played well and beat a good team that was fighting to make it to the playoffs."
Notes: Goodman's kickoff return TD was the first for San Diego since 2008. ... Mark Davis lit the flame honoring his late father Al Davis before the game. ... The Raiders allowed a franchise-worst 31 TD passes this season.
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