Bolts Stars Talk About Latest Disappointment
RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Donald Miralle/Getty)
RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Donald Miralle/Getty)

Posted Jan 18, 2010
scout.com


The Chargers locker room was a sullen place following Sunday's 17-14 loss to the New York Jets. Hear from Norv Turner, Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, Nate Kaeding, Shawne Merriman and others in the wake of the latest playoff loss.

Head Coach Norv Turner

Opening Statement:

“You know you do everything this team has done to get to this point and you know it’s well-documented the number of guys who have contributed to the team. The things that we had to do to get to this point and then you get in this game, what you like to have happen is to play your best game. You like to be playing your best game in January in games like this. Certainly, we weren’t, for whatever reasons. We did not do that today … the things that we’ve done that have given us a chance to win the games in the end (we did not do). First of all we’ve been one of the least penalized teams in the league and obviously we had numerous penalties that slowed us down and a couple of penalties that took away chances to get way down in there, particularly on the Vincent Jackson play all the way down in there. We obviously didn’t play our best game. It’s disappointing.”

How much was it the Jets dictating how they want to play?

“The Jets are a good team. They’re first in the league in third down defense and they’re going to create some different looks. But those are not things we’ve done with a couple of the times we’re trying to get the right protection and have had false starts. As I said the Vincent Jackson play, we haven’t made those kinds of mistakes. I don’t know if that’s based on what the Jets did or we had a critical error there.”

Did nerves factor into this game?

“Well, you’re excited to play and our guys were anxious and excited, but I don’t think nerves are what that is. We’ve talked a lot in the past, to win these types of games is you have to do what you have to do. You can’t try to do more then what you do. We had two or three balls that I thought could’ve been caught and guys are trying to run before they caught it. Those types of plays, you have to maintain the discipline. “

How do you explain the uncharacteristic personal fouls?

“No question. That’s how I describe it uncharacteristic. Obviously, it’s disappointing.”

How much of it was the pass defense or rush defense?

“The passing game I don’t think was an issue. They’re very good up front. They did a good job against us. We weren’t able to get anything going in the running game. That’s what ultimately makes it difficult and we missed opportunities obviously as we know. We missed a couple field goals we normally make and a couple times down in there we had penalties that took us out.”

Have you talked to Nate?

“I talked to him on the sideline.”

How hard is it for you to see him?

“I’m not going to put it all on Nate. We’ve had a lot of guys that have had career years that have plays that they would like to have the outcome different.”

Have you ever been a part of a team that played so well for an extended time and then it all comes crashing down?

“I don’t think it all came crashing down. Again, these games as I said during the week everyone wants to know they’re eight teams in it and they’re all good football teams. These games come down to a few plays and there some great effort out there. Defensively I thought we did an awful lot of good things. We made mistakes that we normally don’t and we didn’t do enough good things.”

Could that have been from frustration?

“As the game went on, I don’t know that you can answer that question or analyze that or express what caused that. It happened.”

On Philip Rivers' second interception:

“He was throwing the ball to Vincent. We put Vincent in motion to get the press off and obviously we’re backed up and trying to get out of there. He said when he threw the ball he thought he had a chance and I think it just got a little away from him. Vincent was a little tighter than he expected.”

Do you think you stayed with the run too long?

“No, I don’t because that’s the type of game. No, I don’t. It was a three point game and we were ahead. There were things we like with an offensive line. With this group, if you turn it into just a pass every down it gets tough. There’s a good period of time where we were ahead in the game and there’s a couple drives where you look at it and you say maybe we should’ve taken a shot with a run there and given ourselves a chance.”

On the Sproles package working so well in the 4th quarter:

“It’s the same thing we all know. It’s a 10-point game and it’s a totally different defense. That’s part of the deal. It gives you chance to get back in it.”

Why the onside kick at the end?

“That’s the one you have to make a call on and that’s always a tough call. We’ve been successful. We got a very good kick. We got big tall guys that have a chance to get it. Either way we were going to have to stop them. Obviously, if we kick it deep they have three downs to get it. If you kick it deep, their play selection might be a little different.”

Down 10 in the 4th quarter, did you think to go for touchdown first and the field goal second?

“Well, we were there and three gives you a chance. As I’ve said about Nate many times, we get in that range and I expect him to make the kick. He expects too.”

How pleased were you with the defense?

“We played hard. We did some great things in terms of defending them.”

Of all things, you would not have expected the mental breakdowns?

“No question because when you go through a season and as I said you’re in the top five in fewest penalties, your in the top five in fewest penalty yards, that’s one of the things we know got us to this point. That’s something we don’t take lightly. We expressed and talked about it a great deal this week: understanding the things that gave us a chance to win those close games we were in and obviously some other games that weren’t so close.”

Did you ever think to go to the hurry-up offense quicker?

“Again, we got to it. The game was a 10-7 game. The hurry-up is good and it’s three and out and it’s not good. We were in a fine rhythm in terms of I think giving ourselves a chance. We were doing some things that were giving us a chance. You spread this group out and they give you a lot of protection problems. During that stretch that you’re talking about, we had three or four plays that we normally catch or complete that we didn’t come up with.”

What happened early in the game with the time out?

“We had two things where one of them we had a head set malfunction and the play got in there late and it was confusing. It was a third down and instead of trying to get half way into a protection we thought that would help us get it. The second time we sent in the wrong formation.”

Do you feel especially disappointed for a guy like LT?

“I think we know I feel and you feel about LT. It’s difficult for everyone in that locker room, but I know how he looked forward to this opportunity. It’s real hard.”

Any idea why you started so slow, Nick Hardwick snapping the ball over Philip’s head?

“As I said, when you go back and look at it there’s going to be 10 things like that. We haven’t had a bad snap on shotgun this year. I asked what happened and he says it got away from him.”

What is the difference in the first half with dominating them to the second half?

“That’s the way games go and obviously we had two turnovers at the lead of the second half. That was a crazy play to Vincent. Again, there are plays we made. Our guys are unbelievable. Malcom has both hands on the ball two different times and doesn’t come down with it. Vincent has a chance to catch a ball and it bounces off his leg and ends up being an interception. Those plays are what you’re talking about. That changes if you’re in the second half if that happens.”

San Diego Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers

It seemed like everything that could go wrong went wrong, any idea why?

“You want to play your best game when you get to this point and we obviously didn’t do it. It’s disappointing because you want to make enough plays and play well enough to win the game. We fell three points short but fought like crazy to try to overcome some of those mistakes, but we just didn’t get it done.”

Did you lose sharpness over the bye week?

“That’s what everyone is going to say because it’s the easy thing to write about but we just didn’t play well enough to win. They outplayed us.”

They kept sending a guy off the right side, why didn’t you put someone in the backfield to stop that?

“Sometimes they bring more-than you have. You can’t block them all. They’re bringing more guys than you have to block. Protection-wise we did a great job picking up the blitz. When they’re bringing more than you have, you have to throw it hot. I thought we made some of those adjustments pretty well and the one I can remember was the sack fumble and we regained possession.”

Were you going for Vincent Jackson on Leonhard’s interception?

“Yes, he was coming in on a dig and I just threw it a little too soon and brought him in a little too far. It was just not a smart play.”

Do you think today was uncharacteristic of this team?

“Well there’s no doubt. We did some things we haven’t done in these last 11, games. Some things we did do in these last 11, but we were able to overcome them. When you’re able to overcome them, people forget about them and when you can’t, they cost you a playoff game. It’s unfortunate.”

Were the penalties disappointing?

“It is disappointing that we had that many penalties. Some of them were unsportsman like and some other different things like delays and false starts. I think it was 10, or even more than that so it certainly wasn’t the football we played when we won 11 in a row.”

Do you think the unsportsman like conduct was out of frustration?

“I don’t know. It really doesn’t matter why it happened. It happened. That ended up not hurting us really.”

From your view did you think the interception was an incomplete pass?

“I thought it hit the ground. If they get an interception, then I’ll take it. It is my fault but that’s just an unlucky deal. Vincent [Jackson] almost makes a great catch and it bounces off his leg and pops up in their hands. I thought I saw an incomplete sign. The ball was 100% intercepted. I was hoping if it at least got called incomplete you could use a challenge. That was more heat of the moment and hoping it wasn’t true, but it was.”

When talking about uncharacteristic behavior, what leads to that? Do the Jets get credit for that?

“Whoever you’re playing deserves the credit. They won the football game. We didn’t play as good as we could have or have in the past. I think the reasons why don’t really change the outcome. We just didn’t get it done.”

How difficult was their defense compared to what you have seen?

“I think they are a good defense. You can’t take that away from them. They only gave up an average of 14.80 points during the year. We beat their average, we moved the ball and challenged them in ways they haven’t been before, but we just didn’t turn those into points. We got down in there early but didn’t get points. We had a play in the third quarter after [Quentin] Jammer’s interception, that took us down to the 15, but had a penalty. We had some others things that kept us out of the end zone but we did some things offensively, yard-wise, but who cares about yards if you don’t have more points at the end than the other team?”

Did their defense confuse you?

“No.”

Does the outcome of this game wipe away the season?

“There’s only one team happy at the end. Unless you win it all, it eventually ends like this, either this week, or next week, or at the Super Bowl. Obviously you want to be the team standing at the top, but for 31 teams it ends like this. Some get further than others, but the feeling of the loss, defeat and disappointment is the same for all 31 of us. We prepared the right way, practiced the right way, but just didn’t make enough plays to win the game.”

The first play after the Jets take the lead 10-7, LT runs for 1 yard, and there were significant boos. Were the fans booing for LT or the play call?

“You have to ask them.”

Were you aware of it?

“I really don’t give it much thought.”

San Diego Chargers Running Back LaDainian Tomlinson


RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Donald Miralle/Getty
How tough was it to run?

“Their defense was perfect. They were the number one defense for a reason and they proved it today.”

Could you imagine all these things going wrong in one game?

“Of course not. We haven’t played like this all year. Penalties and stuff, that is uncharacteristic of this team. We did it today. You can say maybe it’s a case of their defense getting us out of rhythm and having us press a little bit. Credit goes to them.”

How good was their defense?

“It was the best defense I’ve played this year. No question. Run, pass, and they are really prepared. Hats off to them.”

You want a Super Bowl ring; does that motivate you to come back next year?

“I can’t even think about that right now. It’s very disappointing to think about the future.”

Do you want to come back?

“I can’t tell you that right now.”

Do you think you played your last game with the Chargers?

“I don’t know. I’m not sure. I’ve heard all the speculation. But, I’ll tell you what, I’ve had a heck of a time here and if it is, I’ve enjoyed the ride.”

Do you know if it’s your last year?

“I don’t know. Obviously I have a couple years left on my contract but it’s a year-to-year league. No one knows what will happen.”

You’ve said that this team was your best shot at a Super Bowl, how disappointing is it to lose your first playoff game?

“You can’t explain it because of the disappointment. You had it all thought out on how it was supposed to go and this was the best shot we had. To lose this game today, I’m at a loss for words. Of course no one expected to lose tonight.”

Was there a sense as this game was going on that it wasn’t going the way you guys wanted it to?

“No I don’t think so. We always felt like we were going to get it going and they weren’t going to be able to stop us the whole the game and at some we point we were going to put the ball in the end zone.”

Did you underestimate the Jets?

“No, not at all. There is no such thing as underestimating somebody at this point. If someone makes it to this position in the playoffs you can’t underestimate them. Like I said earlier, they had the winning formula to be here.”

Were you aware of the boos on your first down carry?

“That’s frustration on the fans part. Not being able to do much the whole game and the first play that we’re behind we try to run it up in there and we didn’t do anything.”

Do you take it personal?

“No, I don’t”

What does is say about a team that is uncharacteristic?

“Sometimes you have to give other guys credit and that’s plain and simple, not making any excuses. They kicked our buts today. They were very physical and hats off to them.”

So the better team won today?

“I wouldn’t say that. As they say, any team can win one game and they were the better team today.”

Do you still have it in you to play?

“Obviously I have the passion in me. But when this happens it takes a lot out of you, mentally and physically. It has a toll on you to lose like this.”

San Diego Chargers Kicker Nate Kaeding

On getting through a tough game after missing three field goals:

“One of these rested on my shoulders before. Professionally, it’s a tough thing to get through but I never feel sorry for myself. I feel sorry for my teammates, my coaches and the support staff for letting them down. It’s going to be a tough few months but I have to get through it. If you relish the good parts of it, you have got to be able to work through the bad part as well. I’ve been through it before, its a tough night obviously and we’ll let this rest and pick up the pieces.”

On what happened on the three missed field goals:

“I didn’t kick it between the uprights.”

On how he felt coming into today’s game:

“I felt great coming in and obviously I’ve been kicking the ball great coming in. It was just one of those things where I put some bad swings on it and the ball didn’t go in.”

On the ups and downs of his football career:

“It’s tough, it is obviously not enjoyable. The other side of it definitely beats this side of it but like I said, if you play this game and you can only accept when things go well, then you’re in the wrong business. Especially in my position because you’re going to miss some and unfortunately some days like this will come and my really bad days have been untimely ones. Its tough to deal with but you have got to deal with it, it’s part of the deal.”

On how he felt about today’s missed field goals:

“I don’t know. When you make them you put a good swing at them and when you miss them you don’t. The ones that I missed today, I didn’t hit very well.”

On his fundamentals when he’s kicking field goals:

“You just try to replicate and do the same swing every time.”

San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates

On how he is feeling right now:

“Disappointed, frustrated at this point just knowing that there were a lot of things that we did to ourselves. We had a lot of penalties, which is uncharacteristic of the San Diego Chargers.”

On the Chargers in the second half not seeming like the same team we had seen over the last eleven games:

“When you are playing this kind of game, it’s amazing how penalties can change field position and can mean so much in a game like this. Obviously, it meant a world of difference in this game. They continued to stick with their game plan. They bust up a long run and you look up and we were trailing. That’s just how easy this game can turn around.”

On if it was the Jets or if the Chargers beat themselves today:

“To a certain extent. There were some things that were just uncharacteristic of the Chargers; all of the penalties and we had delay of game (penalties). To me, we had more penalties and unsportsmanlike conduct (penalties) in this game than we had since I can remember. That’s why it’s just important to come out and play your best football around this time of the year.”

On having a core group of players and if they felt that this year was one of their best chances to go all the way:

“I think that’s what is devastating at this point because we understand that our focus was there. The maturity level was there. We had dealt with a lot of adversity so there wasn’t anything at this point that we hadn’t seen as a unit. To come out and lay an egg in this game… words can’t really describe how I feel, how this team feels at this point.”

On having been here before and knowing how the next nine months is going to feel like and on how he is not looking forward to that:

“It’s heart-breaking. Like I’ve said in the past, it’s just that the National Football League is a game of inches, a game of taking care of the football. They did a better job than we did today.”

On how good the Jets defense is:

“They play hard. They make plays but with all due respect, we just weren’t playing up to our standards. We made some plays offensively but the key to me was just the penalties, they were killing us. We turned the ball over and that just was uncharacteristic of us, offensively. It just hurt us.”

On if the team seemed to lose focus after each penalty:

“To me it was so uncharacteristic. I couldn’t really believe it was happening at times. Penalty after penalty. I’m thinking like, ‘Man, not again,’ because that wasn’t us. That isn’t something, if the past you look at is the last eleven games, delay of game? Unsportsmanlike conduct? I can’t remember the last time we had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. We chose the wrong game against the wrong team to not capitalize.”

On if any of the Jets defensive looks confused the offense:

“They do a lot of different things defensively. You look up and there are two down-linemen and nine guys walking around. They are a tremendous team. They play hard on both sides of the ball but make no mistake about it, this was just about the San Diego Chargers. We lost by three points and there were some things that were just… I mean I dropped some passes. It wasn’t the team I’ve been around for the last eleven weeks. With that being said, we fought hard and we went out and did what we could do and our guys played their heart out.”

San Diego Chargers linebacker Stephen Cooper

How much tougher is it considering the way you guys played tonight when you haven’t really played like that all season?

“It’s real tough. It’s very tough because this isn’t our team. We are a very disciplined team. We’ve had our penalties down all season and for some reason we had some very stupid penalties today and they showed. If you have penalties in the playoffs and you give a team like the Jets an opportunity to win, they are going to keep grinding and grinding and grinding because that is what they do.”

What was the difference between the first half and the second half?

“I think the second half we had a couple turnovers and they got the ball with good field position. They controlled their field position during the game and that’s why they won.”

San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle


FS Eric Weddle
Donald Miralle/Getty
On the game and if the way they played made it sting even more:

“It always hurts when you lose. The reality of the fact is that this is it; the season is over and you never know what is going to happen next year. The opportunity we had- we didn’t seize it for whatever reason. I don’t believe it’s the bye, I don’t believe it’s time off. We just didn’t play good enough to win so you’ve got to give credit to the Jets.”

The expectations were so high for you guys; is the disappointment just as great?

“If they weren’t as high it would still hurt just as much. The season is over. We thought we had a really good team and obviously we didn’t play good enough to win.”

You have to give credit to the Jets but at the end of the day do you feel that you beat yourself out there?

“No. I don’t think that. When we lose, we didn’t play good enough to win. The Jets had a lot to do with that. You have to give credit to your opponent. Hopefully we’ll learn from it and come back strong next year.”

San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman

Were you surprised at the number of penalties?

“Yes that was very uncharacteristic of us. Why today? I don’t know but you can’t win like that at all, you cant win. We can’t expect to win a game in the playoffs with that many penalties. It’s just not us.”

It has to be such a shock to go from the high you guys were at before this game, to where you guys are at right now:

“It’s not a good feeling. I’ll tell you that much, especially when you come so far and you’ve done all the right things to get in the position that we were in, and to fall like this is a horrible feeling. Horrible.”

Is the suddenness of the season the worst part of it?

“It is because like I said, when you work so hard and have done all the right things to get in the position we were in and lose the way we did, it’s not like we got kicked around the field. I’m not sure exactly how many penalties we had but I’m sure that we had a lot of them.”

Very uncharacteristic of this team?

“We’re not used to doing those things at all. It’s so tough, not just to lose the game, but to lose the way we did. We have a bunch of guys in this locker room that played hard and played their hearts out and it didn’t end up the way we wanted it to. We started moving the ball and did some positive things at the end but ran out of time.”

Do you think you guys were rusty after that week off?

“I don’t think so. I think the week off helped a lot of guys get healthy including myself. We got well-rested and ready to play football. When you have a week off like that, it has nothing to do with the amount of penalties that we had today. It was uncharacteristic of us period.”

In your gut feeling, do you think that you’ll be back next year?

“Who knows. I love the game of football. I love my teammates and my fans, and whether I’m here or not, it’s not up to me. That’s the last thing that I’m thinking about. I feel terrible for these guys in the locker room who have been here and wanted to win and get a ring, and who have put in so much work and to lose the way we did, I feel bad just for those guys alone. It’s one of the toughest things that you’ll ever have to deal with.”

How stunning was it to have so many composure penalties today?

“It was one of those things that we haven’t had a problem with the whole entire season because we had a lot of discipline and not making mistakes. We did all those uncharacteristic things today that we haven’t done all season. When you lose like that, that’s what makes it hurt that much more.”

Did their running game take a toll down at the end of the game?

“I don’t think so. I think we had a wrap on them for most of the game. But when you keep giving them back the ball and keep giving them opportunities, there’s a reason why they’re in the playoffs. They are going to finally score and we missed some field goals and if you do uncharacteristic things like that, you have to expect to lose. It’s a terrible feeling.”

San Diego Chargers defensive end Luis Castillo

On what he can say about the loss:

“The one thing we can say is that everybody is going to be looking for someone to blame. We’ll have nine months for every individual to find a way to point to themselves and to find a way, one of these years, to get past one of these games.”

On what happened to the maturity of the team over the bye week to not come out on top today:

“You always play as a team. When you are at this point, at this level of the season, you’re not playing a bad team and sometimes it’s a matter of who can go out there and have things go their way and we just didn’t today.”

On if the penalties, especially the personal fouls, make the loss more gut-wrenching:

“There are so many different things whether it’s missed opportunities, whether it’s mistakes, whether it’s, obviously, the penalties and not just the personal fouls but the before-the-play-starts penalties. The dead ball penalties really hurt you and really there’s no reason for them. There’s also no explanation. It’s not like we didn’t do everything we needed to. It’s not like we didn’t prepare the way we needed to. Things just didn’t go our way.”

On some of the players in the locker room not being back next year and how much that hurts:

“Every year you just see it as, I don’t want to say a lost opportunity, but every year you see it as make-it or break-it because in this league, whether it’s injuries, whether it’s free-agency, whether it’s just the nature of our business, you don’t get many (opportunities). We’ve been fortunate enough to have a few over the years and we believe we have a core group of players on this team who are going to continue to fight, continue to be good and continue to try to get to that level that we haven’t been able to achieve yet. It’s disappointing because we did feel like we had a great chance.”

On the long touchdown run given up by the defense and what happened on that play:

“I don’t know what happened. It was most likely a missed fit, a mental mistake. To give up that type of a play, it’s not usually something where everybody was where they were supposed to be and they just got blocked. It’s usually a mental mistake and look, if it was, it’s still on the other ten guys on the field to find a way to get it corrected because in this league everyone gets beat every now and then. We all have to rally. We have to find a way to play together and it’s not on just one guy.”

San Diego Chargers long snapper David Binn

On if past playoff games had any influence on the game:

“I don’t think so, it’s a different game. I had a little bit of a feeling that we were just out of it and the Jets are a good team and they came in and they played good defense and we have to give some credit to them for maybe throwing us off a little bit. As a team, it just seemed like we just weren’t hitting on all cylinders today and that’s what happens.”

On being here for a long time and having this kind of disappointment many times and on where this one ranks:

“None of them are easy. You just try and hope you play your best game. We didn’t do that today and ended up with a loss. It’s shocking and it feels a little bit surreal right now, like the season’s over? You just have to move on and look forward to next year.”

On how uncharacteristic it felt for this team:

“It just felt a little bit off, I think. There were just some mistakes made by, it seems like, everybody on both sides of the ball, special teams, everywhere they were just a little bit off. I guess that’s all it takes to turn it into a loss.”

On how bad he feels for Nate Kaeding:

“I feel bad for him, really bad.”



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