"I haven't dealt with this since I have been playing," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "It's tough."
Since Rivers became a starter, it's been one AFC West championship after another. But the Chargers finish their regular-season against the Broncos and then there's nothing but waiting until next year.
What makes the Chargers' collapse so hurtful is coach Norv Turner didn't hide his enthusiasm for the club before the year. He stated this was the best Chargers team he had coached, which led many to believe this might the year the Chargers reach their second Super Bowl.
Instead it falls on the scrap heap of so many other Chargers teams, those of which much was promised but little was delivered.
The season unraveled quickly when the team started 2-5, a deficit it never really could shake. It spent the season chasing the Chiefs, a team the Chargers hoped would stumble down the stretch.
But it was the Chargers showing their flaws, never more so than in Sunday's 34-20 loss to the Bengals. The Chargers had to win last Sunday and this Sunday and pray the Chiefs would lose. Neither of which happened.
"It was just too tough a hill to climb up from," Rivers said. "We felt we could do it but we couldn't."
Not since the 2005 season's final game have the Chargers been in this position. That game didn't leave good memories with Drew Brees suffering a serious shoulder injury, his last game with the team.
It's not believed Turner will make wholesale changes to protect players from injury Sunday. Although those fighting hard each week just to get active, will likely be down.
Turner, though, said the Chargers will play with determination. What isn't set in stone is what the season has meant.
"This is as good a group as I've been with," Turner said. "We have a game to play and we will finish the season. After that, we will have a reflection on the season."
Wide receiver Legedu Naanee said having no postseason will be a tough adjustment.
"It's more of a shock," he said. "It's my fourth year here and every year here we've been playing in the postseason. And it's weird to be thinking that we are going to stop playing. It's tough for us right now."
LINEUP WATCH: Inside linebacker Brandon Siler could start again Sunday with Stephen Cooper continuing to battle a knee injury. Siler, who also plays special teams, is best in short-yardage situations.
BY THE NUMBERS: Can the Chargers get No. 3 for the road? Among the reasons for the team's disappointing season is the Chargers' dismal road record. Sunday's loss at Cincinnati illustrated how much difficulty the Chargers have away from Qualcomm Stadium. If the Chargers fall Sunday at Denver, their two road wins will be their fewest number since 2003 when going 4-12.
-- RB Mike Tolbert (neck) will be evaluated later in the week but it's likely he will be down this week.
--WR Patrick Crayton (wrist) has increased his practice time and he could go Sunday.
--TE Antonio Gates (toe, foot) won't play Sunday with nothing on the line.
--WR Malcom Floyd (hamstring) could be down for the last game.
--RB Ryan Mathews, who is coming off a solid game, figures to be the lead back with Tolbert ailing.
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