San Diego Chargers running back Mike Tolbert (35) scores on a 1-yard touchdown run against the Oakland Raiders during the second quarter.
For all the talk about what it would take to send Oakland to the playoffs, the Raiders were unable to accomplish the one part they could control.
Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes and Richard Goodman returned a kickoff 105 yards for another score as the San Diego Chargers ended Oakland's playoff hopes by beating the Raiders 38-26 on Sunday.
The Raiders (8-8) went into the final day of the season needing to win and get help to end an eight-year playoff drought. They got the assistance 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.
The Chargers could only celebrate playing the role of spoiler in what may have been coach Norv Turner's final game in San Diego. If this was his last game, he ended his tenure with an offensive masterpiece as San Diego did not punt, committed just one turnover and gained 463 yards.
Rivers completed 19 for 26 passes for 310 yards and was at his best on a key drive in the fourth quarter after Oakland cut 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 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.
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, brought in at midseason 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 record-setting penalty was a hold by Rock Cartwright on the opening kick of the second half.
The day got off to a bad start for the Raiders, who were eliminated from the wild-card chase when Tennessee held on to beat Houston 23-22 and the New York Jets lost 19-17 at Miami. But there were no score updates given all day at the Coliseum as Raiders coach Hue Jackson wanted his team to keep focused on the task at hand.
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 San Diego's 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.