But the Chargers couldn't capitalize and the result was another lost opportunity.
"Don't remind me," safety Clinton Hart said of the Chargers' failed chance. "It's tough, but we got to take care of business. We are not out of it -- we still have a chance to do some good things. But all we can do is focus on Atlanta and put this behind us, but it's tough to lose one like this."
The Chargers have but five games to make up two games. Something working in their favor is facing the Broncos on Dec. 28. But the Chargers needed to pick up a game before the curtain falls on the regular season.
TE Brandon Manumaleuna
"But that's where we are at and for some reason we are there and some way we have to find a way to get going because you can't say 'next week, next week.' Sooner or later, the season is going to be over and you accumulate so many losses you are out of it. If we are going to go, we got to go now -- not this every week we have another chance or we'll get 'em next week."
Someone not going anywhere is coach Norv Turner. Despite his 15-12 regular-season mark with the Chargers, general manager A. J. Smith has given Turner a vote of confidence.
Turner was hired by Smith after he fired Marty Schottenheimer following his 14-2 season. It's Smith's first head-coaching hire, and while the selection came with suspicion because of Turner's losing stints in Washington and Oakland, Smith has never missed the chance to sing Turner's praises. But if the team doesn't make the playoffs -- and it might need to run the table to do so -- the heat to reexamine Turner's position will undoubtedly increase.
Smith also said there would be no changes to the coaching staff at the midseason bye, then canned defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell.
But it appears -- for now -- Turner will be given a longer leash. Turner's regular-season career mark is 73-94-1.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When it's crunch time, instead of stepping up and making the play, we get nervous and just try to hold on and hope we get it right." -- RB LaDainian Tomlinson. on the team's shortcomings this season.
LINEUP WATCH: Defensive end Jacques Cesaire started his first game of the season against the Colts and could see more action going forward with Luis Castillo being out with a groin injury. Cesaire, a valuable backup, has started 33 games in his five seasons with the Chargers before getting his first start of this year. Cesaire has a quick burst and an ability to reach the quarterback. He had two sacks in extended playing time two weeks ago when Castillo got hurt. With Castillo's track record of injuries -- he's played a full season just once, his rookie year -- Cesaire is an important part to the Chargers' defensive depth.
--RB LaDainian Tomlinson eclipsed John Riggins to secure No. 14 on the NFL's all-time career rushing list. Tomlinson has 11,420 yards.
--CB Cletis Gordon (knee) could return this week after missing the past two games.
--RB Michael Bennett, who was picked up recently on waivers, continues to learn the offense and could be active this week.
--FB Mike Tolbert injured his shoulder and will be evaluated this week.
--Rookie FB Jacob Hester took advantage of Mike Tolbert's injury to catch three passes for a touchdown and 16 yards in his first extended playing time of the season.
--WR Chris Chambers had his best day since coming off his recent ankle injury when catching a season-high six passes for 61 yards.