It seemed like everything that could go wrong did.
It was one of those games where the football Gods shined down on San Diego – for a change.
Polling the team on whether this team would have won such a game in 2003 led to a unanimous decision – not a chance.
"Two years ago, I would not have said that but certainly last year," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "A deer in the headlights look.
"The dynamic is far different than it has been since I have been here."
"I think last year that wouldn't have happened to us," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said of pulling out the victory. "Just for the simple fact that's how it was going for us."
And the fortunes say there will be no monumental collapse as there was in 2002. When a team can find a way to win despite its shortcomings, they are destined for something greater.
It is the ugly wins that define a football team and this team needed a win as they had on Sunday. It keeps the focus in check. There is no walk through the park on a Sunday in the NFL. And the gut check on Sunday – and San Diego's ability to weather the storm - says a lot about their confidence and demeanor. They believe they can win the close ones, as much as they prefer the blowouts.
"This is the kind of win we needed," linebacker Steve Foley echoed. "It kind of tested us, especially at the end. We kept making countless mistakes, which we can't have but we found a way."
"You are not always going to play your best but good teams generally find a way to win when they are not playing their best," said Schottenheimer.
Only a few times this year has the head coach alluded to the success of the team. Good teams find a way. Whether it is a lucky bounce, a call that goes their way or simply skill, no team will play its best through a 16 game season. By winning on Sunday, they proved they can duke it out at close quarters and still come out with a win.
After successive blowouts, the game on Sunday served its purpose. They must continue to work hard in practice and carry that attitude over to the games.
Linebacker Randall Godfrey agreed, "We practice to prepare ourselves for these situations. Every game is not going to be a blowout. It is going to be tight coming down to the end."