However, the defense played its best with the game and the top seed in the AFC at stake. With the Cardinals facing a first-and-goal from the San Diego 5-yard line, the Chargers came up three consecutive stops to force a field goal and preserve a seven-point advantage.
The Cardinals never threatened again.
"We came out little flat, but we got on top of it and started to sharpen up on some things," Marlon McCree said. "Give them credit, too."
San Diego may have to lean heavily on its defense if it hopes to be successful in the postseason, as the offense could have its hands full. Barring any upsets, the Chargers' next two opponents would be the Patriots and Ravens, the top two teams in the league in terms of points allowed.
As evidenced in the Cardinals game, the defense is ready for the challenge.
"This whole season I think we really stuck together as a team through tough situations, which makes a Super Bowl-caliber team," Shawne Merriman said. "We faced some adversity this season, but we fought threw it and it shows the exceptional character of our team."
Some may dismiss the latest defensive stand because it came against the downtrodden Cardinals. But the fact of the matter is Arizona has ample talent on the offensive side of the ball. Kurt Warner is a two-time MVP; Edgerrin James is a former Offensive Rookie of the Year; and Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald represent the league's most potent receiving duo.
Yet the Chargers defense was able to overcome, despite the absences of defensive linemen Luis Castillo, Jacques Cesaire and Derreck Robinson. All are expected to be available for the team's first postseason game.
It is that brand of resilience that has marked the most successful season in Charger history.
"Once again our football team found a way to get a victory and we ended up doing as well as we could do with the opportunity we have," said coach Marty Schottenheimer of his team securing homefield advantage.
In case anyone is wondering, that stench of desperation is coming from Jason Taylor's direction. First, Taylor claimed that Merriman should not be considered for Defensive Player of the Year due to his positive steroid test. That claim would have been far more valid had Taylor not been competing with Merriman for the honor.
Then, right before voting concluded, Taylor informed the media he is considering retirement. First, he smears the competition. Next, he seeks sympathy from the voters. If Taylor does indeed retire, he should consider a career in politics.
"I'm not worried about that guy," said Merriman of Taylor. "I think that he is very talented and I have been watching him for years and I have nothing bad to say about him."