Antonio Gates was the reason for the Chargers immense success last year. That much is clear.
Before the season, Drew Brees said he would not trade his two starting wideouts for any two in the league. Truth be told, he is right. They are great complimentary players to a star like Gates.
Fact remains he was not available and the Chargers had a chance to prove they were more than just LaDainian Tomlinson and Gates.
"It was an opportunity missed," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said.
Brees took the blame and he should on this one. He had four downs to put the team in the end zone and win the game. Without Gates, he could have proven that it was his elevated game that put the tight end on the map. After failing to do so it may have been Gates who put Brees on the map.
"You have to capitalize on it and we didn't," admitted Brees. "I'll take the blame for that."
Chances come in every game and converting those is the difference between the win and the loss.
"First and second down, we did not do a good enough job of getting into short and manageable third downs," quarterback Drew Brees said. "There are not many magic calls on third and 12."
Schottenheimer continued to point to the closed running lanes that moved the Bolts to throw more often.
He did breakdown and admit that Tomlinson should have seen the ball more and has his own counter to the use of screen passes, of which there were none.
"They played a considerable amount of man-to-man which compromises the screen game," the coach explained. "We saw a lot of eight men in the box.
"As we reflected back on it, we thought we probably could have tried to get the ball to him more than we did. We should have gotten him the ball more."
The team continually shot themselves in their own feet and suffered because of it.
And now they head on the road. The good news is they have Gates back. The bad news is the last time they won in Denver the Stone Age was just coming to a close.
Shawne Merriman is expected back in the lineup but Schottenheimer admitted he will have a tough time getting playing time on special teams coverage after the excellent job they did on Sunday.