Team Report: Inside Slant

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Oct 14, 2005

Take a deep breath, Chargers Nation: your team just wasn't good enough.

Maybe that's not completely correct: your team was just not consistent enough.

The Chargers see the curtain come crashing down on the regular season Saturday, when squaring off against the visiting Denver Broncos.

In the Chargers' eyes, they were going to ride an eight-game winning streak into the contest to push the Broncos for a share of the AFC West title, or at least cement their standing as one of the AFC's wild card teams.

But the Chargers will do neither, thanks to a home stumble against the Miami Dolphins three weeks ago and Saturday's pasting courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs.

That's what makes the end of this season so baffling.

The Chargers have looked great at times in beating the Patriots, Redskins and Colts on the road. But they have also looked very ordinary, something that is proven by a very ho-hum home record of 4-3.

Playoff teams don't flirt with .500 at home. In their run to the AFC West title last season, the Chargers were 7-1 at Qualcomm Stadium.

Cornerback Quentin Jammer was asked after Saturday's loss at Kansas City if the Chargers were a playoff team?

"It all depends after which game," he said. "Not this one."

So the result is a long winter getting ready to set in for San Diego football fans. Sometimes the Chargers look like world-beaters - at Indy, at New England - but other times it resembles a team that's far from ready to be considered among the NFL's elite outfits.

Yes, the Chargers had five trips to the Eastern Time Zone - and they went 4-1. Yes, the Chargers faced the league's toughest schedule. Yes, four of the teams the Chargers faced were coming off their byes this season.

Yes, all that means squat. The schedule is what it is. Good teams buck up and play and advance to the playoffs.

That's not to say the Chargers aren't a good team - a squad doesn't send six players to the Pro Bowl if there isn't talent on the roster. But the Chargers aren't a consistent team. And the NFL is about how teams conduct themselves week in and week out, not how they can rise up occasionally for a big win.

The Chargers took a big step toward respectability last year when securing their first playoff appearance since 1995. But this year, with all due respect, they weren't good enough over a 16-game season to be considered a playoff team.

So it will be interesting to see what Chargers team shows up on Saturday? Will it be the splashy one that spins the scoreboard with ease? Or the one which gets exposed on the defensive back end and struggles in its run-blocking?

Either way, the Chargers will go into the off-season carrying a bitter dose of what if, how come and how did we let this season slip away from us?

SERIES HISTORY: 92nd meeting. The Denver Broncos hold a 51-39-1 advantage. Denver handed the Chargers their second of two losses in opening the season, prevailing 20-17. In the Broncos' last 10 visits to San Diego, they have won four times, with the Chargers winning three of the past four, including a 30-27 overtime win in 2002. Last year on a rainy December day, FS Jerry Wilson secured the victory over Denver with an interception in the end zone off a Drayton Florence deflection. LB Donnie Edwards had a career-high 20 tackles.