Bolts Notebook: Familiar Feel

The season is not over, but time is running out on San Diego's playoff push. While it is unprecedented to some Chargers fans, who have seen their team win four straight division titles, this year's team looks a lot like the 2005 squad that finished with a winning record but missed the playoffs.

This year's Chargers squad is similar in many ways to the 2005 team, the last San Diego squad not to make the playoffs. That team, led by Coach Marty Schottenheimer and QB Drew Brees, finished 9-7 and in third place in the AFC West.

The 2005 Chargers entered the year with high expectations, coming off a 12-win season and a division title. But they started slowly, losing their first two games by a combined seven points. They rallied as the season wore on, but a couple of tough losses, including a home loss to the 5-7 Miami Dolphins, proved to be their undoing.

That loss versus the Dolphins came one week before the Chargers' biggest game of the year, a showdown with the unbeaten Indianapolis Colts. San Diego won the big game to end Indy's bid for perfection, but the preceding loss was the real story.

Fast forward to 2010. This year's critical contest was Week 14's clash with the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs, a game the Chargers ran away with. However, a letdown in the preceding game, a 28-13 home loss to the Oakland Raiders, may ultimately be the game that matters most.

The bad news is that if this year's team follows the 2005 formula, the season will end on Jan. 2. The good news is that after the 2005 Chargers fell short, they came back the following year with the best effort in franchise history, producing a dominant 14-2 season. If this year's Chargers wind up on the outside looking in, hopefully they'll respond with the same ferocity.

Lightning Quicks

--Speaking of 2006, that was also the last time the Chargers visited Cincinnati. In one of the most memorable comebacks in team history, the Chargers rallied from a 28-7 halftime deficit to win, 49-41. Something tells me this year's Bengals will not be putting up 41 points against San Diego's top-ranked defense.

--Don't count on Antonio Gates (foot) or Patrick Crayton (wrist) seeing the field this weekend. The hope was that Gates could play after the long week (the Thursday game against the San Francisco 49ers provided three extra days of rest), but he is still in a great deal of pain and could be rested until the postseason. Crayton originally circled the Bengals game for his comeback from wrist surgery, but with Vincent Jackson playing well and Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee both expected to be available, the Chargers may opt to give Crayton another week to heal.

--The Chargers released LB Darry Beckwith and signed veteran Brandon Moore, a journeyman who spent the last two seasons in the UFL. The team also signed OT Eric Young, formerly of the St. Louis Rams, to the practice squad. Additionally, RB Curtis Brinkley was brought back to the practice squad after a short stint on the active roster.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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