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The best played the worst.
A good season is gone, done in by bad play.
The Chargers lost to the Jets.
I knew it would be tough. I did not know it would be a loss.
I thought it might be ugly. It turned out uglier than I thought possible. San Diego losing to New York, 17-14.
The Jets bluster and bravado begot big plays and a big upset. Rex Ryan’s predictions came true, as did Norv Turner’s nightmare.
It may be as appalling a loss as there is in franchise history. Yes, Steve Young threw six touchdown passes in the 49ers Super Bowl rout in 1995.
But this may surpass that and possibly equal a horrific loss during the Dan Fouts-Air Coryell era, when Vernon Perry picked off four passes in a 1979 home playoff loss to the Houston Oilers by the same 17-14 margin.
The best San Diego had was not good enough on this day. The scoreboard shows one thing. The stat sheet shows another.
Philip Rivers had no more “refuse to lose” cards left in his pocket. There would be no come-from-behind win because the Jets defense refused to buckle, quit or get intimidated. They got better, tougher and bolder as the afternoon wore on.
Rivers, looking at eight-man fronts and blitzes from everywhere, would throw two more postseason picks and take critical sacks. There was no rhythm at all to the offense from the second quarter on.
There was no big run from LaDanian Tomlinson, who quite possibly exited the Q for the final time as a player.
There was no Lights Out dance from Shawne Merriman, who made no big plays, had no sacks and likely has no future in San Diego.
Vincent Jackson caught a bunch of balls, but took a bad 15-yard penalty.
Shaun Phillips, the forced fumble phenom, took a bad head butt penalty.
Nate Kaeding’s field goal streak of 20 straight ended with three straight misses, continuing a postseason career of costly failures.
Antonio Gates dropped a wide-open first-down pass late in the game.
There were false starts, delay-of-game penalties and missed blitz pickups from what had become a dependable offensive front as the season progressed.
There were few defensive stands from halftime on — just a defense that seemed in retreat.
The Jets kept hammering at the running game and finally got gains. Thomas Jones plugged and Shonn Green bolted for critical gains. Green’s 53-yard TD bolt was huge, as was Jones’ fourth-down lunge in the final minute that sealed the deal.
I feared all week that this might be a day of trouble. Yes, the Chargers held a 103-16 yardage edge and an 11:24-3:36 time of possession edge after one quarter. But the score was still 0-0.
And I saw every big play negated by an equally bad one. The game within the game turned the tide. The Chargers had 344 yards in offense, but produced a slew of negative yardage plays, penalties and incomplete passes.
Add the three missed field goals, and you see why this was so ugly, why there was no rhythm and why this was such a painful loss.
Maybe we should have seen this coming, the 11-game winning streak not withstanding. This was not a good matchup. History had shown earlier in the season how the Raiders, Dolphins, Steelers, Broncos, Ravens and Cowboys had run the ball and controlled the clock to varying degrees of success against the Chargers.
A week ago, LaDanian Tomlinson told CBS that to win the playoffs, you need to run the ball and play great defense. The Jets did; his Chargers didn’t.
I wrote about it a week ago and was shouted down by the masses.
A good season means little when your postseason continually ends badly.
Rex Ryan, his mouth and his team’s toughness won out. Quiet and reserved Norv Turner saw his team unravel facing a bully. Out-hit, out-fought, out-thought, out-smarted and now out of the playoffs.
It was misty as fans exited the stadium, an addendum to a disappointing finish, yet again, to what many thought would be a Super Bowl season.
Lee Hamilton hosts “Sportswatch” on XX–1090 (3-7pm) and was the longtime Voice of the Chargers. He broadcasts NFL football for the Compass Media Networks. His SDNN columns have been honored by the San Diego Press Club.