Chargers Reduced to Spoiler Role

The Chargers head for Oakland on New Year's Day, starting this year similar to the last one: playing a meaningless game. It is the Raiders, and that always gets the Chargers' juices flowing. But not far from the surface is a deep dread that the Chargers will be playoff-free for the second straight year.

The Chargers, at least, will try to prevent the Raiders from reaching the postseason. If the Broncos fall in their regular-season finale, the Chargers, with a win, could stop the Raiders from winning the AFC West.

That's what the Chargers are playing for - not much considering the preseason hype.

"I think disappointment is an understatement based upon the talent that we have and the opportunity presented to us," tight end Antonio Gates said. "Not making the postseason is a disappointment to this organization. Making the playoffs is our expectation every year."

But a stinker Sunday in Detroit ended those postseason dreams. What's to be determined is if the consecutive shoddy seasons cost coach Norv Turner, and possibly general manager A.J. Smith, their jobs.

Team president Dean Spanos is expected to take a few days following Sunday's game to make a decision whether one, both, or neither return.

The Chargers' erosion in the standings - one playoff win in four seasons -- and with its fans - a dwindling season-ticket base - could indicate which way Spanos leans.

But first comes a road trip to Oakland. The Chargers are shooting to finish .500 and end another sour season, like last year when winning in Denver, on an upbeat note - kind of.

"To know that we could've had a pretty good chance to make the playoffs had we won out, that makes it hurt that much more," running back Mike Tolbert said.

Ditto in how the Chargers were manhandled in their 38-10 loss to Detroit that eliminated them. Even in the Chargers' fatal midseason six-game losing streak they were rarely dominated.

"During that six-game stretch, that's the one thing we could hang onto was we were in every game," said quarterback Philip Rivers. "We had a chance. We didn't get beat like (Saturday). This is one of very few in a long time that we've been beat like this and you've got to give them credit.

"But just like last year when you hang your hat on running the table and beating playoff teams on the road, it's tough."


UNDER THE RADAR: It's a statistic that flies low, but means a lot: Inside linebacker Takeo Spikes is closing in on his 15th straight season of missing the playoffs. Spikes came over from the 49ers this year hopeful the talented-Chargers could break his career-long quest. But with the Chargers out, Spikes again won't be in. "It's very difficult," Spikes said, before excusing himself. "It's just ... I'm sorry guys."

BY THE NUMBERS: The Chargers-Raiders series is one of streaks, and the Chargers have to be careful the Raiders don't have one in their twice-a-season matchup. The Chargers reeled off 13 straight wins until 2010. The Raiders rebounded with a season sweep, and then took the first game, in San Diego, this season. Through parts of the 1960s-70s, the Chargers played the Raiders 18 times without a win, a run which included one tie.


--WR Vincent Jackson was compromised with a groin injury that derailed his practice time leading to the game. Jackson's status for Oakland could be doubtful.

--TE Antonio Gates became the team's all-time receptions leader, passing Hall of Famer and Chargers receivers coach Charlie Joiner. Gates has 587 catches.

--RB Mike Tolbert hurt his knee but it isn't considered significant.

--LT Jared Gaither injured his ankle but he was able to finish the game.

--CB Antoine Cason got another look fielding punts and did well, with a 17-yard return on his only chance. Cason has a knack for returns, but the team has been reluctant to expose a starting corner there.

BoltsReport Top Stories