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Even Tomlinson's big game couldn't save mistake-prone Chargers

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Jan 14, 2007.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ap-timdahlberg-011407&prov=ap&type=lgns">Associated Press</a>

    By Tim Dahlberg

    <img width="221" height="200" align="left" alt="San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson sits on the sidelines during their loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional playoff football game in San Diego, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2007. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)" title="San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson sits on the sidelines during their loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional playoff football game in San Diego, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2007. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)" src="http://espn-i.starwave.com/media/apphoto/CAME12901150230.jpg" />SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The seat on the water cooler at the end of the bench wasn't the best in the house. LaDanian Tomlinson took it anyway, and the hulks who open up holes for him dutifully filled the bench next to him.

    From his perch, Tomlinson couldn't see much. Maybe he just didn't want to watch.

    His teammates seemed determined to give away a game he almost single-handedly had put in the bag for the San Diego Chargers.

    And there wasn't a thing he could do.

    On the field, Tom Brady was doing his thing, leading the New England Patriots to two late scores that stunned a boisterous throng of 68,810 into silence.

    Tomlinson still was sitting on his orange-and-white cooler, with nothing to think about other than what might have been.

    He did get one last chance, but it wasn't much of one. Out of timeouts and running out of time, the NFL's best player never touched the ball on a final desperate drive that ended with a failed 54-yard field goal attempt.

    Just like that a magical season ended with a familiar scenario -- the Chargers done for the season, and Marty Schottenheimer a playoff loser once again.

    It was enough to put one of the NFL's classiest players on edge. When some New England Patriots danced and celebrated on the Chargers' helmet at midfield, it pushed the soft-spoken Tomlinson over the edge.

    He went after an unidentified Patriot, and for good measure, he bashed their coach, too.

    "I would never react like that. I was very upset," Tomlinson said. "When you go to the middle of our field and start doing the dance Shawne Merriman is known for, that is disrespectful. They showed no class and maybe that comes from the head coach."

    It wasn't supposed to be like this. And the way Tomlinson carried the Chargers most of a chilly Sunday afternoon, most of the Charger faithful never imagined it would be.

    "I thought we were going to take control of it," Tomlinson said. "But they stepped up and made more plays at the end of the game than we did."

    No one made more big plays than Tomlinson.

    It started with a pitch on the game's first play, which Tomlinson ran effortlessly around the left end for 11 yards.

    That was a mere promise of things to come. By the time the first half ended, Tomlinson had 143 total yards and had scored one touchdown and set up a second.

    When the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, he scored yet another -- his 33rd of a record-breaking season. The Chargers had an eight-point lead, and the celebration already had begun in the stands.

    Unfortunately, Tomlinson couldn't play defense. He couldn't make up for a comedy of errors by those around him.

    Instead, he sat on his water cooler watching his teammates fall apart as the Patriots scored 11 points in 3:26 to advance to the AFC title game in Indianapolis.

    He still has his MVP award. But he'll have to wait at least another year for a chance at a Super Bowl ring.

    "It's disappointing, very disappointing," Tomlinson said. "What can you say? We lost to a better team today."

    Actually, the Chargers lost to a team that took advantage of a boneheaded penalty for three points and a boneheaded coaching move by Schottenheimer that might have cost them another three.

    Add four turnovers, and it was not a recipe for success.

    Although Tomlinson criticized Bill Belichick after the game, he wasn't going to say anything bad about his own coach, whose job is in jeopardy after coming up short in yet another playoff game.

    "It shouldn't be the coach who takes the heat, it should be the whole team," Tomlinson said.

    The Chargers had won 10 in a row and had the NFL's best record at 14-2. Had they won, they would have had a home game against the Colts and an open road to their first Super Bowl in 12 years.

    Instead, they face an offseason with more questions than answers. They had the league's best offensive player in Tomlinson and maybe the best defensive player in Merriman and still couldn't win a playoff game when it counted.

    "Hopefully the next opponent we have we will have learned something from this," Tomlinson said.

    Maybe. But a lot of people in San Diego believe that lesson should have been learned a long time ago.

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