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Chargers lament another missed opportunity at Super Bowl

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Slow start, strong finish, playoff disappointment. That scenario played itself out yet again for the San Diego Chargers for the third consecutive year.

With a roster that has perennially been lauded as one of the most talented in the NFL in recent years, a feeling the Chargers themselves believe, you can imagine the frustration that has set in.

"It's aggravating," Pro Bowl special teamer Kassim Osgood said, "but I mean, you could be a team that loses 16 straight games and never has a thought of moving ahead or you can be close to almost winning it. You've just got to tell yourself that you're a great team that has to get over the hump."

Of their failures to reach the Super Bowl, this might have been the best opportunity for the Chargers to get over that proverbial hump.

They opened up with a 2-3 record and were left for dead in the AFC West after the Broncos got off to a 6-0 start. But San Diego pulled off an impressive 11-game winning streak to run away with its fourth consecutive division title and a No. 2 seed in the playoffs.

The Chargers had become the team nobody wanted to have to face in the postseason, especially with red-hot quarterback Philip Rivers leading the charge. But all the hype only led to even more heartache when the New York Jets went into San Diego and upset the Chargers 17-14 in the divisional round.

"It's disappointing," wide receiver Vincent Jackson said, "because we felt like we had the team this year that could do it. We had the right parts, the right pieces in place. We just lost to a very good football team that did what they needed to do."

Added Chargers coach Norv Turner: "We were obviously playing very good in December, but you'd like to play your best game when you play a game like we did against the Jets. We didn't do that, but that doesn't change, in my mind, what this team is about and what we're capable of doing."

San Diego is getting to the point where their window of opportunity may be closing. Many figure running back La Dainian Tomlinson has played his last game for the Chargers.

The Chargers will also some key personnel decisions involving Jackson and Osgood, as well as running back Darren Sproles, outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, wide receiver Malcom Floyd (an unrestricted free agent), and offensive tackle Marcus McNeill.

Even with uncertainty about what the Chargers roster may look like next season, Turner, who received a three-year contract extension, remains steadfast that San Diego will contend for quite a while.

"There's five or six players who get most of the attention on our team," Turner said, "but we have a lot of good players. I think we're going to be a good team for a long time."

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