Just ask Marty Schottenheimer. He said that Denver was the best defense his team has faced all season.
"They play hard and they have a system that makes it difficult, in my opinion, to get many big plays," he said after the game.
San Diego, in fact, didn't get any big plays. LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 113 yards and put the ball in the end zone twice. But Tomlinson never ran for more than 15 yards on a single play, and the rest of San Diego's offensive weapons remained ineffectively dormant.
Chargers' quarterback Drew Brees had his worst game of the season. He completed 14 of 27 passes for only 106 passing yards, his lowest so far this year. He rushed for just two yards and threw an interception that broke his team record streak of 195 consecutive passes without a pick. He didn't throw a single touchdown pass.
Denver cornerback Willie Middelbrooks held tight end Antonio Gates, an offensive force to be reckoned with, to only three catches for 31 yards.
Kenoy Kennedy ran what he thought was an interception back 95 yards for what he thought was a touchdown. The play was recalled though, on a San Diego challenge that called the throw incomplete, the ball hitting the ground before being tipped by cornerback Kelly Herndon.
John Lynch did his job - brutally, as usual. Maybe it was the glory of performing in front of a hometown crowd (Lynch hails from La Jolla) that pumped up the Denver defensive back. Maybe it was the strong desire to win that seems to run thick through his veins (he should share a little with his teammates). Maybe it was just that he's, well, John Lynch. Whatever it was, Lynch played furiously. He put a hit on Jesse Chatman early in the game that may well have been heard in Los Angeles. The hit resulted in a fumble and left the Chargers‚ running back looking for his mouthpiece like Mike Tyson after a furious round of blows. In the closing moments of the game Lynch blindsided Brees mid-throw, forcing another fumble.
The Chargers finished with 208 total yards - 156 below their season average. Unfortunately Lynch's brutal hits and the rest of the defense's heroic play meant nothing in the end.
Perhaps Herndon said it best. "It doesn't matter," the cornerback said, "we lost."
Or maybe it was Kennedy that coined it perfectly when he said "shoulda, woulda, coulda."
The two defensive players‚ words were appropriate, but it was Lynch's words that perhaps rung the truest.
"We've just got to go back to work," Lynch said. "I know most people are going to say we're out of it, but we're going to come back from this - we've got to get one win first before we worry about the rest of that, and that starts next week."
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