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Inside Slant - 01/15/09

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Jan 15, 2009.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/chargers/home.htm" target="_blank">USA Today</a>
    <div class="inside-copy"><a href="http://i2.chargers.com/assets/263/46769_600w600h.jpg"><img class="alignright" title="Two turnovers and a few bad breaks cost the Chargers a chance to return to the AFC Championship Game as they dropped a 35-24 decision to the Steelers Sunday. (Mike Nowak/Chargers.com)" src="http://i2.chargers.com/assets/263/46769_600w600h.jpg" alt="" width="186" height="160" /></a>And just like that, the season that wasn't expected to continue, was over.</div>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers were eliminated from the AFC playoffs Sunday when getting thumped, 35-24, by the Pittsburgh Steelers.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The beating was such there was little room for second-guessing come Monday. Sure, the players went over some of the freakish plays - a punt hitting Eric Weddle's helmet on a punt return; having but one snap in the third quarter - but for the most part it was obvious the better team won.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">So Monday the Chargers were reflecting more on an up-and-down season rather than a play here, a play there that would have them playing host to the Ravens Sunday in the AFC Championship Game.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers made history in becoming the only team to qualify for the playoffs after a 4-8 start. They are also the first to win a division crown after trailing by three games with three to play.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">So while the bitter taste of Sunday's shellacking will be evident for months to come, the Chargers did do enough things right in 2008 to embrace.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"I think this was a team that fought every game even when it didn't seem like we were even going to make it to the playoffs and win our division," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said of his memories. "This team fought and never stopped believing that we were an elite team in this league. That is something for me that I am going to take away because of the kind of guys we have on the team."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">For the third straight year the Chargers won the AFC West title. For the third straight year, it got to the elite eight still standing in the AFC playoffs. For the third straight year, it failed to reach the Super Bowl.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"There is a positive and negative to it," linebacker Stephen Cooper said of the season. "Our negative was our goal was to win a Super Bowl and we didn't do that."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But the Chargers did show grit after falling in such a hole. They dug themselves out with five straight victories, until falling well short in Pittsburgh.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"We didn't have the season we wanted to have or expected to have record-wise or the outcome - from that perspective we fell short," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "But it wasn't because of a lack of effort or lack of preparation.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"We got the right mentality, so just go at it again and hopefully get off to a better start. I don't think you are ultimately proud of the season we had because there is a lot of low and when you don't finish on top you ultimately aren't satisfied."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RB LaDainian Tomlinson is hoping to avoid surgery on his torn groin muscle. He said he'll give it rest for about a month before making a decision.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"If I'm not feeling better by then, then we might have to do something," he said. "Hopefully, we won't have to and in a month's time I feel like I will be feeling better." Tomlinson didn't play in the loss at Pittsburgh.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-QB Philip Rivers had the best statistical season of his career, leading the NFL in passer rating and setting a team mark with 34 touchdown passes.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"I relate everything to wins and losses and we were .500 this year," he said. "And that is not good enough by my standards or by anybody's standards."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Chris Chambers wasn't shy when asked if the season was a success. "No," he said. "We didn't make it to the Super Bowl. For me, it's my ninth year."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera was expected to speak with the Lions about their head-coaching vacancy. The Lions asked and received permission to speak with Rivera.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RB/KR Darren Sproles could have played in his last Chargers game as he enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. "I hope not," said Sproles. "We'll have to see."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-S Eric Weddle hopes the sting of Sunday's loss isn't pushed aside. "We have to learn from this game and learn from this moment," he said. "We have to remember the feelings we have here because this hurts."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PLAYER NOTES</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-CB Quentin Jammer suffered a strained hamstring in the third quarter and did not return. The Steelers weren't shy about attacking Cletis Gordon, his replacement.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Malcom Floyd (collapsed lung) was active for the first time since getting hurt in Kansas City on Dec. 14. Floyd will become a restricted free agent.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-TE Antonio Gates will rest his sprained ankle, which he battled with over the final two weeks.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RG Mike Goff is an unrestricted free agent and early indications are the Chargers won't bring him back.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RB Darren Sproles, after delivering consecutive 100-yard rushing games, was restricted to 15 yards on 11 carries in Pittsburgh.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">REPORT CARD VS. STEELERS</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PASSING OFFENSE: B - Philip Rivers threw for three touchdowns and 308 yards, so there isn't much blame to put here. Rivers' interception came on a tipped pass. Rivers got pounded as he was sacked four times and flustered on many other occasions with the Steelers' exotic blitzes. And with the running game struggling, Rivers had to do it all by himself. WR Vincent Jackson had a great catch on a 41-yard touchdown pass. Despite his running game not producing, Darren Sproles had a team-high 91 receiving yards on five catches.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">RUSHING OFFENSE: D - It's hard to get a running game established when you are trailing for most of the game and get the ball for just one snap - one! - in the third quarter. Sproles was bottled up by the Steelers' top-ranked defense as he had to dodge numerous tackles just to get back to the line of scrimmage. The front line was flat-out average; give credit, too, to the Steelers' front seven. LaDainian Tomlinson couldn't go and neither did the Chargers' running game - 15 rushing yards; one rushing first down.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PASS DEFENSE: D - Like everyone else, the Chargers had heard about the Steelers' leaky pass protection. But the front line was on its game as it kept Ben Roethlisberger upright and allowed one cheap sack. With Roethlisberger having time to go through his reads, the back end struggled. He threw for 181 yards and no scores - but repeatedly picked up the key first downs by converting third-down opportunities through the air. Antonio Cromartie had another challenging day in a season which couldn't end soon enough for him.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">RUSH DEFENSE: D - The Steelers are never shy about running the ball in the playoffs and on a frigid day they did it with panache. Willie Parker torched the Chargers for 146 yards as Jamal Williams was about the only productive player up front and the linebacking corps had difficulty being in the right spot or wrapping up - or both. ILB Stephen Cooper had another solid game but the Chargers will look to upgrade the starting position opposite him - Sunday showed why.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">SPECIAL TEAMS F - The Chargers had the momentum and had quieted the rabid Steelers fans when Santonio Holmes busted a 67-yard punt return for a game-tying score. The coverage team left too big of a hole up the middle and Holmes took advantage of it. It marked the first time since 2003 the Chargers had allowed a punt-return touchdown. Sproles had a 63-yard kickoff return, but couldn't deliver on punt returns. K Nate Kaeding was nursing a sore groin which had P Mike Scifres kicking off to start the game.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">COACHING: C - Norv Turner is one smart offensive mind but not even he could whip up something when taking but one third-quarter snap as the Steelers hogged the ball for those 15 minutes. The Chargers seemed to deflate when Holmes ran back his punt and they never recovered from it. The blitzing wasn't as prevalent as the previous week, but Rivera might have been scared to dial up too many with a backup at corner after Jammer went down. The Chargers had been on an emotional high for five weeks and their spark just ran out against a superior team. Not much coaching could have done here as the best team won, convincingly.</p>

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