CINCINNATI - A ragged victory on the West Coast has given the Cincinnati Bengals a sense that everything is coming together with the playoffs on the line.

CINCINNATI — A ragged victory on the West Coast has given the Cincinnati Bengals a sense that everything is coming together with the playoffs on the line.

Even coach Marvin Lewis sees them as a team on the rise.

A 20-13 victory at San Diego on Sunday gave Cincinnati a four-game winning streak and kept the Bengals (7-5) in the middle of the playoff chase. They remained tied with Pittsburgh for the second AFC wild card, although the Steelers hold the tiebreaker because they won in Cincinnati this season. (The teams meet again in Pittsburgh on Dec.?23).

The Bengals have turned into one of the NFL’s hottest teams — their four victories have come by 18, 22, 24 and seven points — at the right time.

“This team is getting better each week,” receiver A.J. Green said. “A lot of people said it was out of our reach to make the playoffs, but I feel like we have momentum on our side coming down the home stretch of the season.”

The Bengals play at home on Sunday against Dallas (6-6) and the following Thursday at Philadelphia (3-9), which is tied for the worst record in the NFC. Then comes the Pittsburgh game, before Cincinnati closes the season at home against division-leading Baltimore (9-3).

The Steelers defeated the Ravens 23-20 on Sunday, chopping Baltimore’s three-game lead to two. Suddenly, the division title is up for grabs with four games left.

“We’re obviously in the hunt for this thing,” Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said.

Even Lewis, who is careful not to give his team too much praise after a victory, referred to the Bengals as a “rising” team after they overcame three turnovers against the Chargers and pulled out the victory in the fourth quarter.

Lewis’ biggest concern yesterday was that his players don’t let it all go to their heads.

“We were able to kind of shake the cobwebs a little bit and break up the glee club, because we’v e got to do better,” Lewis said. “It wasn’t good enough yesterday in a lot of areas.

“Everybody is patting them on their backs about what they’re doing. Well, we haven’t done anything. We just got back to even, and now we have to move forward. These last four are what counts.”

Sunday’s victory was a significant step, however. The Bengals played their sloppiest game in a month, with three turnovers. A Dalton interception was returned for San Diego’s only touchdown. The Bengals’ defense allowed the Chargers to drive inside Cincinnati’s 20-yard line in the final minutes before getting a game-clinching interception.

“There’s still a lot of young players playing a lot of football,” Lewis said. “Three rookies started on offense yesterday (center Trevor Robinson, guard Kevin Zeitler, receiver Marvin Jones). That’s a lot. That tells you where we are with things. You have to realize that.”

Last season, the Bengals, who finished 9-7, reached the playoffs as a wild card despite losing three of their last five games. In the weakened AFC — Cincinnati is one of seven teams with winning records — there’s a chance to get in again, though it probably will require a better finish than last year.

“I think we are a far better football team than we were last year when we finished the season,” Lewis said.