The loss was devastating given their remaining schedule and the playoff picture that looms.
The Chargers are in danger of peering through the window on Christmas morning while other teams are opening their playoff ticket presents.
"We are disappointed with the loss and that is normal," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "That ‘what if' is always present. ‘What if' could have been 12-0, 13-0 like the Colts."
Instead they are 8-5 – one loss more than all of last season with three games to go.
And this loss promises to linger. What could have been indeed. A win against Miami would have at least afforded them a chance to write their own story. It would also have given them wiggle room – room for a loss against the unbeaten Colts.
Carrying over any of the attributes from Sunday's game will surely mean a loss in Indianapolis.
"The wins go by so much faster and the losses stick with you," Tomlinson admitted.
"We have this sour taste in our mouth," head coach Marty Schottenheimer echoed. "Here we sit feeling miserable about it. The only way you fix it is by winning the next one."
Taking that step forward requires confidence – and one player isn't short on that, if short in stature for his position.
"That one just got away from us," said quarterback Drew Brees.
The stats say the Chargers should have won. Given their 2-to-1 time of possession tilt, perhaps they should have one. But then we would be playing into Tomlinson's "what-if" scenarios.
Schottenheimer nailed the door shut on their performance and the reason they lost:
"Someone said pro football began in the 1920's. Over that period of time, the blueprint for winning remains the same. It hasn't changed. You don't give the football to the other guy, you protect the football. You don't give up big plays defensively and in the kicking game you work to create field position."
Bouncing back against perfection will be the challenge.
"Where do we go from here?" asked Brees. "You learn from those mistakes and get back to the little things, the details, the fundamentals."