House Money Finally Runs Dry

And just like that, the season that wasn't expected to continue, was over. The Chargers were eliminated from the AFC playoffs Sunday when getting thumped, 35-24, by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The beating was such there was little room for second-guessing come Monday. Sure, the players went over some of the freakish plays - a punt hitting Eric Weddle's helmet on a punt return; having but one snap in the third quarter - but for the most part it was obvious the better team won.

So Monday the Chargers were reflecting more on an up-and-down season rather than a play here, a play there that would have them playing host to the Ravens Sunday in the AFC Championship Game.

The Chargers made history in becoming the only team to qualify for the playoffs after a 4-8 start. They are also the first to win a division crown after trailing by three games with three to play.

So while the bitter taste of Sunday's shellacking will be evident for months to come, the Chargers did do enough things right in 2008 to embrace.

"I think this was a team that fought every game even when it didn't seem like we were even going to make it to the playoffs and win our division," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said of his memories. "This team fought and never stopped believing that we were an elite team in this league. That is something for me that I am going to take away because of the kind of guys we have on the team."


LB Stephen Cooper
Harry How/Getty

For the third straight year the Chargers won the AFC West title. For the third straight year, it got to the elite eight still standing in the AFC playoffs. For the third straight year, it failed to reach the Super Bowl.

"There is a positive and negative to it," linebacker Stephen Cooper said of the season. "Our negative was our goal was to win a Super Bowl and we didn't do that."

But the Chargers did show grit after falling in such a hole. They dug themselves out with five straight victories, until falling well short in Pittsburgh.

"We didn't have the season we wanted to have or expected to have record-wise or the outcome -- from that perspective we fell short," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "But it wasn't because of a lack of effort or lack of preparation.

"We got the right mentality, so just go at it again and hopefully get off to a better start. I don't think you are ultimately proud of the season we had because there is a lot of low and when you don't finish on top you ultimately aren't satisfied."

NOTES, QUOTES

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson is hoping to avoid surgery on his torn groin muscle. He said he'll give it rest for about a month before making a decision.

"If I'm not feeling better by then, then we might have to do something," he said. "Hopefully, we won't have to and in a month's time I feel like I will be feeling better." Tomlinson didn't play in the loss at Pittsburgh.

--QB Philip Rivers had the best statistical season of his career, leading the NFL in passer rating and setting a team mark with 34 touchdown passes.

"I relate everything to wins and losses and we were .500 this year," he said. "And that is not good enough by my standards or by anybody's standards."

--WR Chris Chambers wasn't shy when asked if the season was a success. "No," he said. "We didn't make it to the Super Bowl. For me, it's my ninth year."

--Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera was expected to speak with the Lions about their head-coaching vacancy. The Lions asked and received permission to speak with Rivera.

--RB/KR Darren Sproles could have played in his last Chargers game as he enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. "I hope not," said Sproles. "We'll have to see."

--S Eric Weddle hopes the sting of Sunday's loss isn't pushed aside. "We have to learn from this game and learn from this moment," he said. "We have to remember the feelings we have here because this hurts."

PLAYER NOTES

--CB Quentin Jammer suffered a strained hamstring in the third quarter and did not return. The Steelers weren't shy about attacking Cletis Gordon, his replacement.

--WR Malcom Floyd (collapsed lung) was active for the first time since getting hurt in Kansas City on Dec. 14. Floyd will become a restricted free agent.

--TE Antonio Gates will rest his sprained ankle, which he battled with over the final two weeks.

--RG Mike Goff is an unrestricted free agent and early indications are the Chargers won't bring him back.

--RB Darren Sproles, after delivering consecutive 100-yard rushing games, was restricted to 15 yards on 11 carries in Pittsburgh.


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