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Chargers star quarterback Justin Herbert with former offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who was released Tuesday. Photo via Twitter/NFL
Chargers star quarterback Justin Herbert with former offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who was released Tuesday. Photo via Twitter/NFL
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The Chargers Curse: Is it real?

It’s been two days since the meltdown, and I still can’t believe it. The Los Angeles Chargers blew a 27-7 halftime lead against the Jacksonville Jaguars to lose Saturday night’s AFC Wild Card game.

That’s right. The Bolts had a 20-point lead heading into the locker room.

If you follow the Chargers, you’ve seen this movie many times. During the regular season, the Chargers had given up a few second-half leads that ultimately led to losses.

But this is the playoffs, and Los Angeles led the Jags by nearly three touchdowns. Maybe the Bolts got this one?

This game felt different at first. The Chargers had made the playoffs for the first time since 2018 and appeared to be on a late-season roll. Enter the Chargers’ curse.

Let’s go ahead and back up. As a North San Diego County resident for the last 45 years, I am familiar with the Chargers, owners, players, etc. I’m a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan, but I always root for the Bolts. Over the years, the Chargers have let me down in so many ways that I could never be a true fan. However, I love the team’s loyal fan base.

I first witnessed the Chargers’ curse during the 2006 season. The Chargers’ offense was loaded — Phillip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates under head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

The name of the game was Schottenheimer’s conservative ground-and-pound game plan known as “Marty Ball.” And it worked. The Chargers went 14-2 to win the AFC West and earn a date with Tom Brady and the Pats in the AFC divisional round.

2006 AFC Divisional Round: Jan. 14, 2007, New England Patriots vs. San Diego Chargers 

The Chargers led the Patriots 21-13 with 4:58 seconds left in the 4th quarter at Jack Murphy Stadium. The Chargers outplayed New England and were seconds away from a huge postseason victory. On what could have been the game’s final drive, Brady was intercepted in the end zone by Chargers’ defender Marlon McCree.

But instead of downing the ball, McCree decided to run it out of the end zone. (If McCree downs the ball, the Chargers most likely run out the clock since the Pats had no timeouts left.)

In doing so, McCree fumbled the ball and gave it back to Brady and the Patriots, who promptly scored a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the game, 21-21. New England’s defense held the Chargers, setting up the Patriots’ field goal to win, 24-21.

That’s when I knew this Chargers organization was cursed. And they haven’t disappointed yet.

But the Bolts’ curse has been with the team for years, even decades. In 1981, the Chargers were playing for an AFC Championship against the Cincinnati Bengals on the coldest day in Ohio history (minus 9 degrees, with a minus 59-degree wind chill). The Chargers, hailing from the warmer climes of the West Coast, lost the Freezer Bowl, the coldest game in NFL history.

The previous year, the Chargers lost to the Houston Oilers 17-14 in an AFC playoff game after the Oilers’ defensive coordinator had figured out the Chargers’ play signs. Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts threw five interceptions — three to Vernon Perry — and San Diego was unceremoniously booted from the playoffs in a disappointing upset loss.

The 1980 team was arguably the best Chargers’ group in the organization’s history, even better than Bobby Ross’s ’94 squad that made it to the team’s only Super Bowl appearance.

So, this past weekend on Jan. 14 — 17 years to the day after one of the worst bad beats for any NFL team poised to win a Super Bowl — the Bolts looked good early. They couldn’t possibly blow this game, right? The curse is nowhere tonight, right?

Jacksonville 31, Chargers 30

NFL Divisional Rounds

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Jacksonville Jaguars (10-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (14-3), 4:30 p.m., NBC

Point spread: Chiefs -8.5 (Chiefs favored to win by more than 8.5 points, otherwise Jaguars cover)
Moneyline: Chiefs -400 favorites to win (bet $10 to win $12.50 total); Jaguars +280 underdogs to win (bet $10 to win $38 total)
Total scoring Over/Under: 51.5 points scored by both teams combined

New York Giants (10-7-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (14-3), 8:15 p.m., FOX and FOX Sports App

Point spread: Eagles -7 (Eagles favored to win by more than 7 points, otherwise Giants cover)
Moneyline: Eagles -345 favorites to win (bet $10 to win $12.90 total); Giants +260 underdogs to win (bet $10 to win $36 total)
Total scoring Over/Under: 47.5 points scored by both teams combined

SUNDAY’S GAMES

Cincinnati Bengals (13-4) at Buffalo Bills (14-3), 3 p.m., CBS

Point spread: Bills -4 (Bills favored to win by more than 4 points, otherwise Bengals cover)
Moneyline: Bills -213 favorites to win (bet $10 to win $14.69 total); Bengals +160 underdogs to win (bet $10 to win $26 total)
Total scoring Over/Under: 50.5 points scored by both teams combined

Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers (14-4), 6:30 p.m., FOX and FOX Sports App

Point spread: 49ers -4.5 (49ers favored to win by more than 4.5 points, otherwise Cowboys cover)
Moneyline: TBD
Total scoring Over/Under: 45.5 points scored by both teams combined

— Point spreads and money lines by Fox Bet.

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