12 things: The Chargers' struggles

San Diego's window of contention is closing fast

Updated: October 22, 2010, 4:58 PM ET
By David Fleming | ESPN The Magazine
Philip RiversStephen Dunn/Getty ImagesThis season hasn't been kind to Philip Rivers and the rest of the Chargers.

It only seems appropriate that it will be the Patriots who finally bring the Chargers' disappointing reign to an end this Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.

San Diego has won five division titles and 69 games in the past seven seasons with, perhaps, the NFL's greatest collection of talent. But it has been the Patriots, more than anyone, who made sure the flashy Chargers ended up with essentially nothing of real value to show for all those gaudy numbers.

People will say 2010 was the year when the Chargers' unfulfilled window of opportunity ended. But, for me, it slammed shut with just over nine minutes left to play in the 2008 AFC Championship Game in New England. Trailing the Pats 21-12, on fourth-and-10 with the ball on the New England 36, coach Norv Turner made a decision that defined -- and will forever haunt -- this team.

He punted.