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A year's worth of highs, lows

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Jan 26, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/2006-01-25-best-worst_x.htm">USA Today</a>

    By Matt Pitzer
    <div class="intro-copy"><strong>Best team not to make the playoffs</strong></div>
    <p class="intro-copy">The Chargers claim this unflattering victory because they let too many wins slip away. They faced a difficult schedule, including playing four playoff teams in their first five games. The Chargers, however, must blame themselves for not being in the postseason. A team that featured one of the best players in the league in <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=3445">LaDainian Tomlinson</a> and Defensive Rookie of the Year <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=5706">Shawne Merriman</a> fell short too often. For example:</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">• Losing 28-24 to Dallas in Week 1 after star tight end <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=5171">Antonio Gates</a> was suspended because of a contract dispute. The Chargers could not score despite a first-and-goal at the Dallas 7 in the final minute.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">• Letting Denver win 20-17 in Week 2 after having the Broncos on the ropes with a 14-3 lead at halftime. Cornerback <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=2950">Champ Bailey</a> turned the game around with a 25-yard interception return for a TD.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">• Being held to a field goal after first-and-goal from the Eagles 1 in the fourth quarter, then losing 20-17 in Week 7 after Philadelphia returned a blocked field goal for a TD.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">• Ending a five-game winning streak with a disheartening 23-21 loss at home to Miami, 6-7 after that win, in Week 14.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">All those missteps rendered meaningless a blowout win in New England and ending the Colts' quest for perfection at 13.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy"></p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>Best payback</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">It didn't matter after their playoff debacle, but the Colts bucked that giant monkey by routing the Patriots 40-21 in New England on Nov. 7. <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=2458">Peyton Manning</a> ended his seven-game losing streak in Foxboro and the Colts snapped their six-game skid against New England, including playoff losses after the 2003 and 2004 seasons. That would have quieted one story line had the teams met with more on the line in the postseason. But typical of the Colts recently, they played their best only when there was little at stake.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>Most clutch performance</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=1166">Jerome Bettis</a> rushed seven times for 21 yards on Pittsburgh's game-winning drive in a 24-22 victory against San Diego in Week 5. The final three carries, for 7 valuable yards, came after quarterback <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=5273">Ben Roethlisberger</a> left with a knee injury and maneuvered the Steelers into position for <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=4738">Jeff Reed</a>'s 40-yard field goal with six seconds remaining. Without Bettis' running, Pittsburgh probably does not win. And without that win, the Steelers would have lost a playoff bid to San Diego.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>Quickest collapse</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">It took only seven offensive snaps to change the course of the Jets franchise. Quarterbacks <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=3351">Chad Pennington</a> and <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=2792">Jay Fiedler</a> went down to season-ending shoulder injuries in that span Sept. 25 against Jacksonville, leading to a 4-12 season that led to coach Herm Edwards moving on to Kansas City. That fateful stretch transformed the Jets from a postseason hopeful to an aging, salary-cap burdened team with no clear path for rebuilding.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>Most memorable play</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Who will forget the Chargers botching an important road win against the Eagles in Week 7 thanks to two backup defensive backs named <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=5141">Quintin Mikell</a> and <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=5376">Matt Ware</a>? San Diego, despite a career-low 7 rushing yards by Tomlinson, fought back from a 10-0 deficit thanks to <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=3355">Drew Brees</a>' strong second half and led 17-10 early in the fourth quarter. But <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=5318">Nate Kaeding</a>'s 40-yard attempt to restore a seven-point lead with 2:37 left was blocked by Mikell and scooped up and returned 65 yards by Ware. The Chargers still had a chance to tie after that, but <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=4305">Reche Caldwell</a> lost a fumble at the Eagles 19 with less than two minutes left and San Diego dropped to 3-4.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>Most popular trend</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Coaches detest losing games because it eventually translates to them losing their jobs. And coaches blame losses on turnovers more often than anything else - which is why "managing the game" has become the league's favorite catch phrase. Instead of making plays, the marching orders for more and more quarterbacks were: Don't screw up. <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=2456">Matt Hasselbeck</a> and <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=1152">Jake Plummer</a> led the Seahawks and the Broncos to unexpected success by substantially cutting their interception percentages. Pittsburgh rarely put <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=5273">Ben Roethlisberger</a> in position to win a game with his arm.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">And "managing the game" will be a phrase <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=4187">Eli Manning</a> hears frequently for the next six months. Fifteen of his 20 interceptions were in the final nine games, including the playoffs, and the Giants went 5-4 after a 6-2 start.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>Non-playoff team with most promise in 2006</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Nick Saban Fever swept South Florida during a season-ending six-game winning streak that already has Dolphins fans buzzing about next season even though they still don't have a quarterback to build around. Saban made all the right calls in his first season, from handling <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=2893">Ricky Williams</a>' return to not letting his team quit after losing six of seven in the middle of the season to overseeing what appears to be a great first draft. To be fair, the Dolphins also had an ugly 22-0 loss in Cleveland, and four of those final six wins were against teams that won five games or fewer. Still, training camp can't get here quickly enough in Miami.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>Most questionable decisions</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">No doubt the Eagles' decision to play with fire regarding <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=1315">Terrell Owens</a> is the easiest to second-guess. With the Eagles' multitude of injuries, the season might have been lost anyhow. (Try to imagine Owens being happy with <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=3872">Mike McMahon</a> throwing to him.) But failing to solve the Owens' situation before it poisoned the locker room was a fiasco.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Owens simply did exactly what he said he would if he did not get more money. And the Eagles did likewise - sticking to their hard line of not giving in to player demands. No one, however, won. Owens and agent Drew Rosenhaus saw their images damaged, and the Eagles blew their four-year streak of winning the NFC East.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">• The NFL moving the Saints' first home game to Giants Stadium after Hurricane Katrina left the Superdome unusable proved shortsighted. The league tried to mitigate the issue by painting "Saints" in one end zone and hanging friendly banners around the stadium. But the Giants felt at home anyhow during an easy 27-10 win, a victory that eventually made the difference in them winning the NFC East. The nomadic Saints went on to play games in San Antonio and in front of sparse crowds in Baton Rouge during an ugly 3-13 season.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>Most improbable comebacks</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Something about the Dallas Cowboys playing on Mondays twice led to compelling late-night drama. First, the Cowboys shut down the Redskins offense for 56 minutes Sept. 19. Washington's <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=1576">Mark Brunell</a> found <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=3356">Santana Moss</a> twice running behind the Cowboys secondary and completed 39- and 70-yard scoring passes within 1:11 for a 14-13 victory that three-time Super Bowl-winning coach Joe Gibbs called "one of the greatest moments in sports for me."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Almost two months later, in a Week 10 game, the Cowboys dealt the Eagles' season a decisive blow, scoring two TDs in 21 seconds to land a 21-20 win after being dominated most of the game. Safety <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=4280">Roy Williams</a> picked off a <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=2885">Donovan McNabb</a> pass, returning it 46 yards for the second score. McNabb aggravated a hernia injury trying to tackle Williams, but the Eagles fell to 4-5 and then dropped out of the playoff race after McNabb had season-ending surgery.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>Worst handling of a No. 1 pick</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">In time, the 49ers might regret not playing quarterback <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=5695">Alex Smith</a> more. First-year coach Mike Nolan chose <a target="_blank" href="http://fantasyfootball.usatoday.com/index.php?sport=pftball&type=profile&name=3359">Tim Rattay</a> over Smith to start the season, then went to Smith in Week 5. Smith later missed five games because of a knee injury before starting the final five games and finally throwing his first TD pass in the 16th game. After seeing 165 passes, 11 interceptions and only one TD from Smith, the 49ers aren't much closer to determining whether Smith is their quarterback of the future.</p>
     

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