Our next door neighbor is a Jets fan. I shouldn't be surprised. Even during the 13 years I lived in Manhattan, I found that most of the people I knew were Jet fans. I guess it's just the circles I hang in. When I was making plans for this year's rematch at the Meadowlands with my friend Mike, he boasted that the Jets "just have the Chargers' number."
"Don't take it personally," he assured me. "The Jets can't get past the Steelers and it's the same way for the Chargers against us."
I protested, naturally, and while I don't agree with him, his comments did make me think.
I don't think that the Jets are inside the Bolts' heads or that they represent some impossible mountain to climb. In fact, I don't that the Chargers' problems over the past three seasons are even that specific to the Jets.
But the aggressive attitude and the subsequent attacking game plan of the Jets have definitely caused the Bolts problems. In 2002, the Jets were dead in the water when they traveled to San Diego. They had only one victory and Chad Pennington was gaining more doubters by the minute. The famously intense glare of the New York fanbase/media was also bearing down on Herman Edwards.
The Chargers, of course, had but one loss and were coming off a bye week that followed an emotional win at Oakland. They even wore the throwback uniforms. But Pennington, Curtis Martin, Lamont Jordan and Santana Moss came out and played like their jobs depended on the outcome of the game. The way things work in this town, maybe they did.
Were the Bolts soft that year? I don't know, but we all know that they never really recovered from that 44-13 loss.
You could argue that the cheap shot that ended Jamal Williams' season in our last victory of the season against Denver was similarly devastating, but I'll save that debate for another time.
Last season, the Bolts were simply outclassed in that first game. Brees wasn't accurate and the other Chargers couldn't hold on to the ball. The made it far too easy on the Jets. The defense eventually caught up to Pennington's sideline routes, but the Jets turned it up when the Chargers drew close on the scoreboard.
As for the playoff game, I could go on forever analyzing that. Some people have suggested that I already have. I didn't write about it at the time, for fear of jinxing the Bolts. But New York had already written the Jets' eulogy before that game. They lost to the Rams in OT, Paul Hackett was being run out of town and Chad Pennington's shoulder was clearly ailing. In the days leading up to the game, the Jets didn't even make the back page of the Post and Daily News every day, an almost unthinkable occurrence the week before a playoff contest.
For the Chargers, of course, the game looked to be a vindication after a decade of struggles and validation of what had been a magical season.
But the Bolts came out flat. The Jets are to be credited with a good defensive performance, especially in the trenches, but the Chargers abandoned the balls-out style that they used to get back to the playoffs in the first place. We lost to a team that had coaches fighting on the sideline AND had an ex-Raider almost give the game away. Is that a result of the conservative bungling that has left Marty Schottenheimer with a 5-12 postseason record? You be the judge.
The Chargers need to attack playoff teams like the Jets this season, the way they come after us. There are a lot more postseason caliber clubs on this year's schedule. Last season, the Bolts played aggressively in Indianapolis, but suffered a serious breakdown at the end. Obviously, Peyton Manning deserves some of the credit for that.
But, the same sort of lapse occurred earlier in Atlanta. This year's team needs to use last year's playoff disappointment to galvanize them and motivate themselves to take the next step.
Over the past two decades, the Bears, Giants, Cowboys, Niners and Steelers all came up short in the postseason only to reach the Super Bowl the following year.
The Organization has made some positive personnel moves since that disappointing Saturday night. A.J. Smith obviously has faith in the core of this year's squad. They shouldn't dwell on their playoff performance, but they need to learn from it. Of course, that includes the coach.
Yours in Justice,