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Super Chargers? Nope, just a .500 bunch of Bolts

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Jan 12, 2009.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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

    By Bernie Wilson

    <a href="http://a.espncdn.com/media/apphoto/71c4ebab-11e0-43bb-bacb-20ecffd851b5.jpg"><img class="alignright" title="San Diego Chargers linebackers Matt Wilhelm (57) and Brandon Siler (59) walk off the field after the Chargers lost an NFL divisional playoff football game 35-24 to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)" src="http://a.espncdn.com/media/apphoto/71c4ebab-11e0-43bb-bacb-20ecffd851b5.jpg" alt="" width="224" height="163" /></a>SAN DIEGO (AP)-Expected by many to make it to the Super Bowl, the San Diego Chargers couldn't even make it back to the AFC championship game.

    Even with a stirring stretch run through December-as stirring as it can be against the awful AFC West-the Chargers finished .500 after getting outmuscled 35-24 by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional playoffs on Sunday.

    With a roster full of talented players, the Chargers managed to make it above .500 for only one week this season, and that was after a 23-17 overtime wild-card win against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.

    "This was the strangest of all the seasons since I've been here," quarterback Philip Rivers said Monday. "A lot of good things mixed in with a lot of things that weren't so good. You're never ultimately happy unless you win it all."

    Rivers can say that again. The Chargers (9-9) became the first team to go from 4-8 to the playoffs, winning their last four regular-season games and getting lots of help from Denver's monumental collapse that cost coach Mike Shanahan his job.

    It took a small miracle for the Bolts to make it to the playoffs, and it would have taken another one to win the Super Bowl.

    "We had to play eight elimination games to win it all," Rivers said. "That's tough to do. We stub our toe one time in Pittsburgh, and have a crazy third quarter, and it's over. We put ourselves in such a situation where we had to play almost perfect to win eight in a row to get there. It's hard fighting a battle uphill."

    The Chargers scored four plays into Sunday's game, on Rivers' 41-yard pass to Vincent Jackson. It was 14-10 Pittsburgh at halftime, and the Chargers had the ball for only 17 seconds in the third quarter. That was just long enough for a pass by Rivers to be deflected and intercepted.

    San Diego's defense, meanwhile, couldn't get off the field. The Steelers had a drive of nearly eight minutes that ended with Ben Roethlisberger's 8-yard TD pass to Heath Miller to go ahead 21-10. The Chargers generated no pass rush and allowed Roethlisberger to convert three third-and-longs.

    If all that wasn't bad enough, a Steelers punt bounced off Eric Weddle's helmet, with Pittsburgh recovering.

    "I don't know that I've been in a game that was so significantly affected by two or three plays," coach Norv Turner said.

    Among them was Santonio Holmes' 67-yard punt return for a tying touchdown in the first quarter.

    The Chargers started the season with a loss to Carolina on the last play, then dropped to 0-2 when Denver benefited from referee Ed Hochuli's blown call on a fumble by Jay Cutler.

    "We started with two buzzer-beater losses and it kind of started in a hole early and we never really dug ourselves out of it until December," Rivers said.

    "We didn't have the season we wanted to have or expected to have, record-wise and ultimate outcome. So from that perspective, we fell short," Rivers said. "But it wasn't because of lack of effort or lack of preparation or anything like that. So as far as that goes, we've got the right mentality and you just go at it again and hope to get off to a better start."

    Among the questions facing the Chargers is if LaDainian Tomlinson will ever win a Super Bowl. Tomlinson sat out Sunday's game with a detached tendon in his groin that forced him out of the wild-card win against the Colts. Last season he sprained his left knee in a divisional-round win at Indianapolis, then aggravated it early in the AFC championship game loss to New England.

    Tomlinson said he hopes to avoid surgery. Bothered earlier this season by a toe injury, L.T. is aiming to come back healthy next season.

    "Speaking to different people, it shouldn't be a factor by next year because that's enough time to get healthy from this. If guys can get healthy from knee injuries, and having surgery on ACLs and MCLs, then I'm thinking this should be able to heal up with no surgery."

    Tomlinson, 30, is under contract through 2011 and knows he doesn't have that many seasons left.

    "It's something that you deal with and hopefully you can get back to a point where you can get through a full season, playoffs included, where you're not injured," he said.

    San Diego's highest-profile unrestricted free agent is speedy little running back-returner Darren Sproles. Sproles has said he'd like to return to San Diego, but he'll no doubt attract interest on the market. After gaining 328 all-purpose yards and scoring two touchdowns against the Colts, Sproles was held in check by the Steelers until scoring on a 62-yard pass from Rivers late in the game.

    The Chargers likely will be in the market for offensive and defensive linemen, an inside linebacker and maybe a hard-hitting safety. Right guard Mike Goff and defensive end Igor Olshansky are unrestricted free agents and aren't expected back.

    General manager A.J. Smith didn't return a call seeking comment.

    Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman will be back after having season-ending knee surgery following the opener.

    "I'll be back better than before and I'm playing for a bigger reason than ever before," Merriman said last week.

    Rivers said the Chargers heard plenty of talk from outsiders about Super Bowl expectations and how talented they were.

    "It was like crowd noise being pumped in," he said. "It was overdoing it, and we had yet to play a game and you're talking about a game that's going to be played Feb. 1. Ultimately we can do a better job of understanding you've got to win in September and win in October. You're not going to win the game on Feb. 1 until Feb. 1. It's a long season.

    "I think what we have found out these last two years is everybody's talented in the NFL," Rivers said. "There's no such thing as most-talented team and all that. It's go out and play. Any team can beat anybody."

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