In the End – Effort and Heart Not Enough to Carry Chargers

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, left, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, second from right, and fullback Andrew Pinnock, right, sit on the bench during the third quarter of the AFC Championship football game against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Jan. 20, 2008.

While the effort was there for the San Diego Chargers, the early injury to LaDainian Tomlinson and the poor execution late in the game seemed to be the nail in the coffin Sunday in Foxborough. Tomlinson touched the ball three times on the Chargers first three plays, then took his place on a heated bench on the San Diego sideline the rest of the day. It was a tough end for the season for a proud player that said all week that he would give it a go.

“Sometimes your body tells you it ain’t going to happen,” said Tomlinson. “So you’ve got to listen to your body. Obviously I wanted to play, but if I did try to play I would be hurting my team because I didn’t have any explosiveness, and I wouldn’t have been myself. It’s just been two bad weeks for me,” he added. “I usually don’t take shots like that. It just happened today.”

The Chargers running game was paced by Michael Turner, who may have played his last game in a Chargers uniform. He is going to be a free agent in March, but on this day, he was the teams feature back, rushing for 65 yards on 17 carries. Overall the Chargers had 104 yards on 22 carries, but the explosive Tomlinson clearly would have given the team a boost.

For QB Philip Rivers, he threw two interceptions, but beyond that he gave it a game effort with a sprained right knee that he was limping on throughout the day. He was 19-for-37 for 211 yards with the two picks. For a player that was doubtful on the injury report, he played his heart out, as did the rest of his teammates that came in banged up after two wins already in the postseason over the Titans and Colts.

Even the Pats gave Rivers kudos for a tough effort on a tough day. “I felt that it was a pretty gutsy effort for him to come out there, play the whole game and play well,” Pats LB Mike Vrabel said. The execution part for the Chargers that really hurt was the fact they had the ball inside the Pats 20 three times, yet only had three Nate Keading field goals to show for it.

So for the Chargers, it will be a long offseason, as they were within just a few scores of scoring an upset that would have sent them to the sports biggest game. They won’t have the upheaval of a new head coach this offseason, and despite the tough loss to swallow, it was an effort that San Diego fans can look back on with pride.

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