There were numerous blunders that proved to be the real demise of the team and paved the way for Indianapolis to come back from 15 points down in the fourth quarter.
From the playcalling to the inability of the Chargers defense to come up big when it counted most, there were several turning points to choose from on the dreidel.
When two superpowers meet, the team that makes the most mistakes will generally lose. The Chargers had played well through the first half and into the third quarter but, like the Atlanta game, which was consequently their last loss, the Bolts could not sustain the play for a full sixty minutes.
A 15-point lead after one play in the fourth quarter was overcome by the Colts.
Steve Foley tried his best to single-handedly take the game into his own hands, registering three sacks on the day. But he wasn't in the mood to talk about his play with the playoffs just two weeks away.
"We made a lot of mistakes and they need to be corrected," he said.
The Bolts were able to register four sacks on Manning and even caused two fumbles but that one break they could have used never came their way. The Colts recovered both fumbles.
The defense stayed with Manning and the Colts for a long time during the game. They held Indy to three field goals in the first half. Manning eventually got through. It just happened a lot later than usual.
Six of the Chargers seven penalties came against the defense and all six resulted in an automatic first down. Three of those penalties were of the 15-yard variety and as if Manning needed any help, the penalties help the Colts score ten points.
"Very efficient," linebacker Donnie Edwards described of the Colts' offense. "Their main three guys have been together forever. They really have a grasp of that offense."
The addition of a fourth guy didn't hurt either. Brandon Stokley ended the day with seven receptions and more receiving yards than anyone else on the field. He also caught the touchdown that broke the record for most touchdowns in a single season by a quarterback.
"We ended up in a situation where we didn't get them stopped in that final drive," said head coach Marty Schottenheimer.
It was actually the last two drives that the Chargers came away without a sound, much to the delight of the RCA Dome crowd.
An eighty yard drive ended with Manning getting the record and a two-point conversion tied the game. In overtime, the Colts needed three plays to get to the Chargers 12 yard line and less than three minutes to end the game.
"Blowing leads is something that we need to eliminate," Gates agreed with an eye towards the playoffs. "There are always positive and negatives in the game and you want to build upon the positives and eliminate the negatives."
"We have to come out to win," a frustrated Terrence Kiel added.
And that was another bit of controversy that Kiel unintentionally alluded to. Instead of kicking a field goal from 52 yards out with nine minutes to go, the Chargers elected to punt. The punt from the 34 yard line went into the end zone for a 14-yard net. Had they kicked the field goal, they would have gone up by 11 and forced the issue.
Everyone on the team felt they had this game but the execution wasn't there in the end.
"Overall I just felt like we had this game," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "It gave us a chance to see a playoff atmosphere, a playoff tempo. This was like a playoff game and it felt like one.."
The loss means the Chargers are locked in as the fourth seed of the playoffs and will likely only have one playoff game at Qualcomm on Saturday January 8, 2005. The rest of their road to the Super Bowl will have to be accomplished on the road.
Chargers suffer team loss
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