The loss was eerily similar to the losses of the past. The sting, familiar.
The San Diego Chargers fell to the Houston Texans, 31-28, in their season opener Monday night at Qualcomm Stadium.
They lost in a familiar fashion, an implosion in the second half that caused all the good of the first half to disappear.
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"We just couldn't execute," said Chargers safety Eric Weddle. "It's been our Achilles' heel over the years."
Chargers fans would agree. The team has been plagued with starting games but not finishing them, and on Monday night it seemed that although the organization may have found a new head coach, it hasn't yet found a way to win.
It wasn't all bad, though. In fact, if you went to bed at halftime, you probably thought the Chargers had it locked up. And why not? San Diego forced an interception on the first play of the game (a tipped ball by Chargers linebacker Jarret Johnson led to a catch by defensive tackle Cam Thomas) and when Philip Rivers took the field, it took only one pass to running back Ryan Mathews to get San Diego's first touchdown of the game. A toss to Eddie Royal in the second quarter and an athletic catch from Vincent Brown before the half gave the Chargers two more touchdowns, and they went into the locker room with a 21-7 lead over the Texans.
"We felt good about what we were doing, the game plan," said wide receiver Eddie Royal. "We came out and executed the right way early on."
The Chargers initially started strong after halftime, putting up seven more points on their first possession with another touchdown pass from Rivers to Royal.
Then, it unraveled.
The Texans scored on an 11-play, 70-yard drive in the third quarter and, on their next drive, continued to close the gap, marching down the field against a seemingly tired San Diego defense, who lacked an answer for wide receiver Andre Johnson. Houston was ready to kick a field goal when a costly personal foul by Chargers defensive tackle Cam Thomas gave the Texans a fresh set of downs … and with that, they scored a touchdown to bring the game to a one-possession lead.
Qualcomm Stadium got quiet. Fans had seen this before.
Almost as if on cue, Rivers threw an interception early in the fourth quarter (his first and only of the game) and Texans linebacker Brian Cushing ran it in for the touchdown.
Game over for the Chargers, who looked visibly shaken.
As the clock ran out, Houston scored the game winning field goal, and the Chargers suffered their first loss of the season.
"It's very disappointing," said Chargers cornerback Shareece Wright. "Any time you lose, it's disappointing. When you have opportunities to win and you're up, it makes it even worse."
The game started with so much promise, so much energy. It had been a long time since Rivers looked so comfortable and confident in the offense (trusting his offensive line, even scrambling for 18 yards at one point), and the fans were as loud as they've been in years.
But the result is like a nightmare the Chargers keep on living. In 2012, the team blew five halftime leads. If they are going to win in this league, they have to be able to finish the deal. They have to be able to close out games.
"It beats you up. It's hard to describe, because you put so much into it and it's hard to explain how you're feeling when you live and breathe for those three hours and it doesn't come out on top," Weddle said. "It's one game. We showed improvement as a team ... We've got a good group of guys and we gotta get ready for Philly."
The Chargers now have a short week to prepare for the Eagles, whom they will face Sunday in Philadelphia.