The focus for the Bolts was on the run and they dared the dead-armed Chad Pennington to beat them.
Curtis Martin rushed for 66 yards on 18 rushes, a 3.7 average. So intent were they on Martin, the safeties would creep up one or two steps on every play action.
"One of the reasons the Chargers are good against the run is because their safeties are so aggressive," Pennington said. "You run the ball to win the game, but you have to throw the ball to score."
Pennington used that to show he had an arm. In the third quarter, he baited the safeties to creep up a step and speedster Santana Moss streaked past Jerry Wilson and into the end zone for a touchdown. Quentin Jammer got close to the ball, streaking from out of the play but he could not get his hand on the ball.
"I can't believe I didn't get to that ball," Jammer would say.
But perhaps the defining moment came on the Jets final drive. With all the focus on Martin, the Chargers forgot they have another talented back in LaMont Jordan. With the game on the line, the Jets ran alright. They ran with Jordan and he got 19 yards when they needed just a few and finished the game with fifty yards rushing on seven carries.
"We could not afford to give San Diego another opportunity," Jordan said.
Funny thing is the Chargers had the same opportunity in overtime. They had the chance to win and another five yards could have been the kicker, no pun intended. But when they ran thrice, they did not gain a single yard. LaDainian Tomlinson tried, but the offensive line had no luck pushing the Jets' defensive line.
"They got the better end of it – in the end," Tomlinson said in dismay. "Their defense had a heck of a game. They had a hand in us being somewhat out of sync."
The game had to be decided through the air, but the containment of the backs was the difference between the teams.
Drew Brees connected on 31 passes for 319 yards while Pennington completed 23 passes for 279 yards. The game was tied at the end of regulation and each defense contained the opposing offense between the twenties.
"There was a period in the game where it seemed like we couldn't get anything going," Tomlinson said.
The one drive that the Chargers had moved the ball quite well on was just before the half. Brees threw the only interception of the game with the ball at the Jets 37 yard line. That would end the drive and the chance for the Chargers to take a lead. They gained 45 yards on that drive and managed just 44 yards over the four drives surrounding that error.
It wasn't until the end that San Diego was able to put together two drives to tie the game. And if not for a crucial and dumb penalty on Eric Barton, the season would have been over 15 minutes before it was.
Now the Bolts are looking to build on this loss. They played well, fought hard but didn't have that experience in the big game to pull it out. Next year, perhaps they will.
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