San Francisco has won seven straight. Next up, the NFC South champion Panthers, who beat the 49ers 10-9 on Nov. 10 at San Francisco.
“They got us the first time,” All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman said, “we need to get them this time.”
Chargers 27, Bengals 10
At Cincinnati, San Diego, which has won five straight, barely got into the playoffs, needing an overtime victory against Kansas City’s subs last weekend. Now, the Chargers (10-7) head to AFC top-seeded Denver (13-3), where they won 27-20 last month — the Broncos’ only home loss this season. The original AFL teams have never met in the playoffs.
“We talked all week about this being the fifth round,” quarterback Philip Rivers said, “so the sixth round will be in Denver next week. We know Denver is a great team ... we’ll be ready for the challenge. Go see if we can score one more point than they can.”
The Chargers also avenged their most recent loss, a 17-10 home defeat to Cincinnati, which finished 11-6 but is 0-5 in the postseason under coach Marvin Lewis.
Saints 26, Eagles 24
At Philadelphia, Shayne Graham gave his 10th team something to celebrate with four field goals, including a 32-yarder on the final play to win. New Orleans had been 0-5 on the road in the postseason, but a strong running game, solid defense and the leadership of Drew Brees.
“As much as we hate hearing that talk, we kind of brought it on ourselves,” Brees said of questions about the Saints (12-5) winning on the road and in the cold — whether during the season or in the playoffs. “We lost our last three on the road.”
Thanks to Graham, who was signed 2½ weeks ago when longtime kicker Garrett Hartley was released, they get a chance to start on playoff winning streak away from the Big Easy.
“It really doesn’t matter happened last year or any years past,” Brees said. “We’re not living off the glory or the mistakes of the past.”