Who's to Blame for Latest Playoff Pratfall?

K Nate Kaeding (Donald Miralle/Getty)

The San Diego Chargers choked on another postseason opportunity by falling at home, 17-14, to the New York Jets. We take a look at the people responsible for this latest playoff pratfall, a list that includes more than just Nate Kaeding.

PK Nate Kaeding (0-for-3 on field goals)

There is a tendency to overreact after an emotional loss, but really, how can the Chargers bring back Kaeding next season? He has had a foot in San Diego's premature playoff exits in three of the last six seasons (2004, 2006 and 2009). It doesn't matter that he's technically the most accurate kicker in NFL history; when the playoffs come around, he buckles under the pressure.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson (12 carries for 24 yards)

It is a shame that in what was likely his final game with the Chargers, Tomlinson averaged 2 yards per carry and caught three passes for zero yards. He also won the Jay Cutler Award for worst body language in a meaningful game. The run blocking certainly played a major role in Tomlinson's lackluster outing, but the future Hall of Famer must shoulder some of the blame for the franchise's inability to reach a Super Bowl during his nine-year tenure.

GM A.J. Smith

The Jets dominated this game in the trenches, which was to be expected. Look at New York's lines and you'll see a litany of former first-round picks and marquee free-agent acquisitions. Look at San Diego's lines and you'll see too many former low-round draft picks and street free agents. Smith must find at least two young defensive linemen who can move the line of scrimmage, as well as an offensive lineman or five that can open a running lane.

OLBs Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips and Larry English

The outside linebackers are supposed to spearhead the pass rush in a 3-4 defense. Clearly, Merriman is not up to the task and is a shell of his former self. He went without a sack since Week 9 and was nowhere close against the Jets despite having two weeks to rest his injured foot. Phillips was effective but drew a stupid personal foul in the red zone for a head butt. English finished his rookie season with two sacks, none after Week 6, giving fuel to those who believe OT Michael Oher would have been the better first-round pick.

Who do you blame for Sunday's loss? Share your opinions in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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