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Chargers' Hopes Squashed in Loss

Bolts short of tournament berth again

By Michael Gehlken
|  Saturday, Dec 24, 2011  |  Updated 9:15 PM PDT
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Chargers' Hopes Squashed in Loss

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Head Coach Norv Turner of the San Diego Chargers watches the action from the sideline during a NFL game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 24, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. The Lions won 38-10, eliminated the Chargers from playoff contention.

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Put a mistletoe on the Chargers' playoff hopes, and kiss them goodbye.

Inside a screaming Detroit dome, the tournament door emphatically slammed on the Chargers, as with the highest of stakes on the line, they were at their flattest Saturday, folding 37-10 to quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

Out goes the postseason for the second straight year.

The question now: Who will follow it out the exit door?

Head coach Norv Turner? General manager A.J. Smith?

"I've been concentrating every week as well as I can on getting this team ready to play and doing the things we need to do," Turner said. "We all know that's something that's discussed at the end of the year."

Certainly, defensive coordinator Greg Manusky didn't help his cause on Christmas Eve. The Chargers (7-8), at risk of their first losing season since 2003, allowed the Lions offense to convert 8 of 9 third-down attempts in the first half.

The Lions held a 305-93 advantage in total yards by halftime and a 24-0 lead on the scoreboard.

Chargers safety Eric Weddle recovered an onside kick after San Diego finally scored on its opening third-quarter drive, but the Chargers stalled inside the Lions 5. Cornerback Chris Houston broke up a pass in the end zone, and they had to settle for a Nick Novak field goal and 14-point deficit.

Paced by Stafford, who was 29-for-36 for 373 yards and three touchdowns, Detroit's potent offense got the ball for the first time in the second half with 4:53 left in the third quarter and quickly gained 48 yards on passes to Nate Burleson and Calvin Johnson. Running back Kevin Smith capped the drive with a 6-yard touchdown for a 31-10 lead.

The Chargers then drove to the Detroit 2 and turned over the ball on downs.

Quarterback Philip Rivers was 28 of 53 for 299 yards with a too-late touchdown and two interceptions, the second of which defensive end Cliff Avril snagged with his right hand and returned 4 yards to make it 38-10 late in the fourth quarter.

Rivers has tossed a career-high 19 interceptions, including three to defensive linemen.

Chargers tight end Antonio Gates had four receptions to give him 588 in his career, breaking the Chargers record of 586 set by Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner.

Rivers. Gates. They'll be back next year.

Chargers president Dean Spanos must soon decide who won't be.

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