The San Diego Chargers had one of the most unlikely runs to a playoff berth this season. The Chargers were certainly lucky on Dec. 29, as the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens lost to give the Chargers control of their own destiny — then the Kansas City Chiefs missed a last second field goal and had a touchdown called back in overtime before San Diego clinched a spot. However, according to the NFL on Dec. 30, the Chiefs’ missed field goal shouldn’t have counted.
Before Ryan Succop missed a potential winning field goal to end regulation, the Chargers committed an illegal formation, with seven men on one side of the snapper instead of six. The NFL acknowledged that San Diego should have been flagged and Succop should have kicked again — but it came a day after the officials failed to do it.
Because they failed, the Chargers and Chiefs went to overtime and San Diego got the win it needed to reach the playoffs. Because of that, the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to make the postseason, whereas they might very well have made it if Succop got his second chance. As such, the Chargers may be the most illegitimate team of the postseason.
This will become an even greater issue if the Chargers actually do some postseason damage, which is a distinct possibility. While San Diego has to visit a Cincinnati Bengals team that hasn’t lost at home all year, the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game under Andy Dalton. If the Chargers pull off the upset, they would face the Denver Broncos — who they already beat at Denver on Dec. 12 to jumpstart their wild card run.
In an age where No. 6 seeds regularly make Super Bowls and get hot at the right time, the Chargers have the profile of a team getting hot at the right time. Now that they have luck and destiny on their side — although the Steelers and Chiefs obviously feel different — this great escape may loom very large in a week or two.
Of course, the Steelers were getting hot at the right time too, despite their overall 8-8 record. They could have threatened the Bengals and Broncos too, but thanks to one missed call, they will never know. Will San Diego, Cincinnati, Denver and others feel any greater effects from this twist of fate in January?