Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Monday, January 15, 2007

Happy Hour 01/15: The Curse Even L.T. Can't Lift

Facing the possibility of losing your job after a 14-2 regular season seems pretty harsh. But when your postseason record is 5-13, and your team - which might just have been the best in the NFL - is going home after losing in the divisional round of the playoffs, I suppose you have to deal with a tough crowd.

I feel bad for Marty Schottenheimer. And I found it hard to believe that there was talk about him being fired if the Chargers lost to the Patriots.

Yet here he is, trying to digest another playoff loss. And he can't just shrug his shoulders and chalk it up to John Elway's greatness anymore. This Chargers team was probably the best team he's ever had going into the postseason. Better than those Browns teams that lost to John Elway. Better than the Joe Montana Traveling Road Show in Kansas City.

It wasn't Schottenheimer that fumbled away an interception, giving New England the ball back on the San Diego 32-yard line. Had Marlon McCree hung onto that ball, the game might have been over. The Chargers had an eight-point lead, and could've run a big chunk of the remaining six-and-a-half minutes off the clock. Yet the Patriots capitalized on the opportunity - because that's what they do - and tied the game five plays later.

However, the head coach may have made the situation even worse by challenging for a replay when it was glaringly obvious that McCree had fumbled. Down by contact? No chance, Coach. Burning what turned out to be a precious time-out on such an unnecessary challenge likely cost the Chargers crucial yards they needed for a game-tying field goal attempt.

And Schottenheimer did make the call to go for it on 4th-and-11 from the New England 30-yard line. Was he just trying not to be Andy Reid? Sure, that decision was made in the first quarter and didn't directly affect the outcome of the game. But those three points ended up being pretty important.

Dropped passes? Muffed punts? Turnovers? Personal foul and unnecessary roughness penalties? Even though the head coach didn't botch those plays, we know where the blame for such mental mistakes ultimately falls.

This one really has to hurt. Because the MVP, LaDainian Tomlinson, had a good enough game for his team to win. And the Patriots looked as beatable as they ever have in the Belichick/Brady era. Schottenheimer may never have had a better chance than this - and it could be the last one he gets.

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