This year was supposed to be different for the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers have been to the playoffs five of the past six seasons, but have yet to get past the AFC title game. In 2004, the Bolts were upset at home by the Jets after a missed Nate Kaeding field goal and then in 2006, the Chargers were beaten by New England and once again it was at home. This year was supposed to be different. This was a different Chargers team or so some people thought. LaDainian Tomlinson was healthy, Shawne Merriman was healthy, Philip Rivers was one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league down the stretch, and the Bolts had won 11 straight games to finish the season at 13-3 to earn a first round bye. The Chargers rolled into the playoffs playing nearly perfect football, had a ton of confidence and everything was set up for an extended championship run. However, the result was the same as it has been the past couple of years. The Chargers are heading on vacation early.
Yesterday against New York, San Diego couldn’t overcome the toughest obstacle they had faced all season long…themselves. While the Jets played extremely well defensively and stuck with their game plan throughout, the Chargers absolutely killed themselves yesterday and it’s got to make this one sting just a little bit more. The Bolts committed 10 penalties, they had a number of dropped passes, they had some questionable coaching decisions, Philip Rivers turned the ball over twice, and their All-Pro kicker looked like he didn’t even belong in the league after missing three field goals, two of which were inside 40 yards. Despite all of their struggles, they still had a chance with one stop on fourth down to possibly get the ball back and try to take the ball downfield on a game-winning drive. They never got that chance though and at the end of the day, the final outcome is another failed playoff run in San Diego for one of the most talented teams in the NFL. The Chargers players left the field yesterday looking for answers to what exactly happened. Even though the Jets played well and deserve a ton of credit for what they did to the explosive San Diego offense, all the Chargers have to do to get their answer is look in the mirror. Yesterday at Qualcomm, San Diego was its toughest opponent it has faced all season.
Following the game, Antonio Gates talked about the end of the season, what went wrong against the Jets, why this loss hurts as much as it does, and whether or not he supports Norv Turner. Much credit goes to XX Sports Radio’s Marty Carswell who started out as part of a locker room interview scrum and then followed Gates from the locker room to his car. That’s the way it’s done!
On how feels following a loss like this:
“Disappointed. Frustrated at this point. Just knowing that there were a lot of things that we did to ourself. We had a lot of penalties and it was just uncharacteristic of the San Diego Chargers.”
On whether he feels like they beat themselves:
“To a certain extent. There were some things that were uncharacteristic of the Chargers. Just all the penalties. We had delay of games. To me we had more unsportsmanlike conducts in this game than we had since I can remember. That’s why it’s important to come out and play your best football around this time of year.”
On him feeling before the game that this was the team’s best chance at a Championship:
“I think that’s what’s devastating at this point. We understand that our focus is there, our maturity level is there and we had dealt with a lot of adversity. So it wasn’t anything at this point that we hadn’t seen as a unit. To come out and, if you will, lay an egg in this game, words can’t really describe how I feel, how this team feels at this point.”
On the play of the Jets defense:
“They play hard. They make plays and with all due respect, we were just not playing up to our standards. We made some plays offensively but the key to me was just the penalties and we turned the ball over. That was just uncharacteristic of us offensively. It just hurt us.”
On why the Chargers can’t get over the hump:
“It’s hard when you search for answers and you don’t receive no type of feedback. I can’t sit up here and say we weren’t ready, I can’t sit up here and say we didn’t prepare. It was an opportunity blown. We had, I wouldn’t say an easier route, but we made a situation where we can have a home game in the playoffs which is already difficult enough. The Jets just came in here and they stuck with their game plan. That was their game plan to keep this game close. This is a Jets game, not a San Diego Chargers game. Running the ball, grinding it out, you look up and the score is 7-0 or 7-3. I can’t remember the last time we were held to seven points in a long time. They just stuck with it. Despite all the penalties that we had to overcome, it came all the way down to a fourth down and we still had a chance. You wanna play your best football at this time and unfortunately we came out and we just didn’t”
On whether or not he still supports Norv Turner:
“Norv can’t play the game for us. They call plays and we go out and execute. Norv wasn’t jumping offsides, Norv wasn’t doing unsportsmanlike conduct. That was all self control or self inflicted wounds. I think that’s why it hurts the most. When you look back at the game and look at see what coulda been done differently, what was done differently, what we didn’t do, the play calling and all that stuff is part of the game. When you look up and its third and seven, to third and thirteen or go from third and three to third and eight, you make it difficult for yourself.”
“On what makes this loss so difficult:
“I those are questions that we will be talking about for the next seven or eight months. Collectively is that why did it happen at this time? We had been doing so well. It’s a part of the game, but it was times when we were getting so many penalties that I would look up and I was just like is it not our time. It was just one of those feelings. We came out, we moved the ball pretty well and we got backed up and we looked up and it was so detrimental to the game. Changing the field position and we just kept making it tougher for ourselves. That’s just uncharacteristic. It was just difficult. We weren’t ourselves today. (Host: It was just a surreal feeling?) We turned the ball over. When you talk about a mature team and you talk about winning a championship, those are valued points that come up all the time. Taking care of the football, not turning the ball over and making them go seventy yards against our defense.”