Chargers' win a jolt for NBC Sports

NFL game sets ratings record; New Year's NHL increases

NBC Sports is off to a good start in 2009 with the NFL and NHL.

The network said Sunday that Saturday's San Diego Chargers-Indianapolis Colts wild-card playoff game, which the Chargers won in overtime, earned the best primetime ratings for a wild-card game to date and the best primetime Saturday ratings for a wild-card game since 1999.

The Chargers-Colts game averaged an 18.3 overnight household rating/30 share from 8:15-11:45 p.m. EST on Saturday, Nielsen said Sunday, forging a ratings tie with a January 2003 Atlanta Falcons-Green Bay Packers wild-card game. Saturday's ratings peaked at a 21.6/37 at 11:30 p.m. EST, when 5-foot-6 running back Darren Sproles sprinted 22 yards for a touchdown to give the Chargers a 23-17 win that eliminated Peyton Manning and the Colts.

Chargers-Colts was the highest-rated Saturday wild-card game since a 1999 Arizona Cardinals-Dallas Cowboys telecast. It also was up 10% from last year's Jacksonville Jaguars-Pittsburgh Steelers game, which averaged a 16.6/27 in the same window. The top markets for Saturday's game were Indianapolis (45.3/64), San Diego (38.6/63) and Nashville (29.8/42).

Saturday afternoon's first wild-card game, pitting the Cardinals against the Atlanta Falcons, did not do as well. It averaged a 14.3/28, Nielsen said, down from last year's 15.4/29 for a Washington Redskins-Seattle Seahawks game in the same window. The top markets for Saturday's first game were Atlanta (28.2/49), Phoenix (25.8/48) and Indianapolis (21.3/26).

On New Year's Day, NBC's "NHL Winter Classic," an outdoor game at Chicago's Wrigley Field, was up in the ratings from last year.

The Detroit Red Wings' 6-4 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks averaged a 2.9/6 from 1-4:15 p.m. EST, up 12% compared with the league's 2008 New Year's Day game (2.6/5), the first U.S. outdoor NHL contest. Thursday's game earned the best overnight rating for a NHL regular-season broadcast since Fox's 3.0/7 for a six-game regional telecast Feb. 3, 1996.

The top markets for this year's outdoor game were Chicago (11.8/21), Detroit (10.5/20) and Buffalo (10.1/20).