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Chargers Have One Last Battle

Times Staff Writer

The San Diego Chargers stayed on the field longer than expected Sunday, losing 31-28 in overtime to the Seattle Seahawks to stumble to an 8-8 record.

Now the larger question becomes: How long will the Chargers stay in San Diego?

Other teams will proceed to the playoffs -- and two will come to town for the Super Bowl on Jan. 26 -- but the Chargers’ next skirmish will be at City Hall.

Charger owner Alex Spanos and city officials are locked in a dispute about whether the Chargers will get a new stadium or exercise an option to seek a new home, possibly Los Angeles.

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The politically volatile issue will be debated by the City Council in early January.

As a finale to Coach Marty Schottenheimer’s first campaign in San Diego, the loss at Qualcomm Stadium before a crowd of 52,159 was a microcosm of the season: a fast start, a stumbling finish and an almost inherent inability to make big plays.

“To me, 8-8 is below what we’re capable of doing, and I’m responsible for that,” said Schottenheimer, his voice thick with emotion. “We need to learn how to win and we haven’t done that.”

Said Pro Bowl-bound running back LaDainian Tomlinson: “It’s kind of like a curse.”

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The Seahawks finished 7-9, with a three-game winning streak.

After starting 6-1, the Chargers lost seven of their last nine games and were eliminated from playoff contention before Sunday’s kickoff when the Cleveland Browns beat the Atlanta Falcons, 26-14.

The Chargers have now missed the playoffs seven consecutive seasons -- second only to the Cincinnati Bengals’ drought of 12.

After trailing 10-7 at halftime and 28-14 midway through the fourth quarter, the Seahawks scored on a 19-yard pass from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to receiver Koren Robinson. With one second remaining, Hasselbeck capped an 88-yard, 17-play drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge to tie the score.

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On the Seahawks’ second possession of overtime, Rian Lindell kicked a 24-yard field goal.

Brees completed 27 of 49 passes for 332 yards, including touchdown passes to Steve Alexander, Eric Parker and Fred McCrary and a two-point conversion to Reche Caldwell.

Hasselbeck was 36 of 53 for a career-high 449 yards and touchdown passes to Robinson and Darrell Jackson. Shaun Alexander scored on two-yard run.


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