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News » San Diego gets another gift but again fails to capitalize

San Diego gets another gift but again fails to capitalize

San Diego gets another gift but again fails to capitalize
How many gift horses do you get?

How many times can the Chargers depend on the Denver Broncos to stink up their own joint like so much Football fertilizer and then fail to make hay in the aftermath?

How many times does opportunity knock before it concludes that the house is unoccupied?

How many times can you lose a game in the closing seconds before you arrive at Julius Caesar's conclusion: that the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves?

The questions are rhetorical. The answers are aggravating. Last night's 23-20 loss to Indianapolis reduced the Chargers' record to 4-7, and their margin of error from minuscule to minute, but the reason Bolts fans should find it so rankling is that the Broncos are having a heck of a time getting out of their own way.

In getting blown out by Oakland 31-10, and at home, the Broncos presented the Chargers an engraved invitation on a silver (and black) platter. Had the Bolts managed to beat Indy, they would have narrowed Denver's lead to one game in the AFC West -- close enough to potentially put Football's Least Resistance Division playoff berth in play in the season finale Dec. 28.

If that scenario brings small solace to those who were expecting the Super Bowl two months ago, it's as much as the Bolts can aspire to at this stage of this bewildering season.

And yet, even that modest goal appears to be too much to ask.

"We've been in this position over and over," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "Every time Denver loses and gives us an opportunity, we lose. That's been the kind of season it's been for us."

Fate, clearly, has not been kind to these Chargers, and not only in the person of Ed Hochuli, the referee whose crucial mistake cost the Chargers in Denver on Sept. 14. Last night, cornerback Quentin Jammer reported being picked by an official on the 14-yard catch Marvin Harrison made to set up Adam Vinatieri's winning field goal as time elapsed.

Yet while some of the stuff that has cost the Chargers this season has been beyond their control, much of it has been within reach and then bobbled.

Driving toward a go-ahead score early in the third quarter, and already within point-blank field goal range, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked and separated from the Football. When the Colts recovered, and subsequently traversed 66 yards en route to a touchdown, the pendulum swing was severe.

Later, down three points with 1:35 remaining, Chargers coach Norv Turner called a timeout that would come back to bite him like a shark with serrated teeth.

A third-down pass from Rivers to Brandon Manumaleuna had moved the Chargers to the Indianapolis 29-yard line, two yards short of a first down. But from his sideline vantage point, Turner's first thought was that Manumaleuna had moved closer to a first down.

Since the 47-yard field goal Nate Kaeding would eventually make to tie the score was his longest of the season, Turner would have had reasonable cause to stop and contemplate his alternatives if the ball had been marked closer to the 27.

"I thought we were fourth and a foot, fourth and a foot or less," Turner explained, "and I was in the mind-set to go for it. I wanted to look at it and didn't want to give them the ball back."

Instead, the distance to a first down effectively dictated Turner's decision to kick and the timeout he used effectively saved the Colts one they could not spare (having used up two of their allotted three earlier in the half). Kaeding's field goal tied the score at 20-20, but left Peyton Manning 90 seconds to respond.

"I told (Darren) Sproles, `We gave him too much time,' " Tomlinson said.

Now, the clock moves too quickly for the Chargers, and there may not be enough time to atone for the chances they have blown.

"We didn't play any harder because (Denver lost)," Rivers said. "But you heard a few times, `Hey, we control everything we want to accomplish now. It's truly in our hands.' ...

"Now, rather than (being) two back with six (to play), we're two back with five. Neither of us did anything. You never know how many opportunities you're going to get, and that was one that put the ball in our court. We controlled our own fate. It turned out we didn't get it done."

Linebacker Shaun Phillips compared the Chargers' season to "Groundhog Day." He was in no position to promise a happy ending.


For the sixth time this season, the Chargers lost a game by a touchdown or less, and for the fourth time, the winning points were scored in the final 24 seconds. A look at the last-minute heartbreaks:

* In the season opener against Carolina, the Panthers drove 68 yards in the final 2:27 for the winning TD, which came as time expired on a 14-yard pass from Jake Delhomme to Dante Rosario. Final: Panthers 26, Chargers 24

* The next week, in the Ed Hochuli game, Denver took advantage of a blown call to score the winning TD and two-point conversion with 24 seconds left, both coming on passes from Jay Cutler to Eddie Royal. Final: Broncos 39, Chargers 38

* Last week in Pittsburgh, with the Chargers leading by two points, the Steelers drove 73 yards in the final 6 1/2 minutes before Jeff Reed kicked the winning 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left. Final: Steelers 11, Chargers 10

* Last night, the Chargers tied the game at 20-20 with 90 seconds left, only to have the Colts drive 37 yards to set up Adam Vinatieri for a 51-yard field goal as time expired. Final: Colts 23, Chargers 20

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 26, 2008

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