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When the Chargers lose, head coach Marty Schottenheimer is often unfairly blamed for playing “Marty Ball.” But the Chargers lost Sunday to the New England Patriots because they didn’t play “Marty Ball.”

The true identity of “Marty Ball” is ball security and field position. Schottenheimer’s critics think it’s playing not to lose, but that’s a misnomer.

The Chargers didn’t take care of the ball and didn’t take advantage of early field position against the New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round playoffs Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium. As a result, the AFC West champions saw their season come to an end with a 24-21 upset loss to the Patriots despite a 14-2 overall record and 8-0 home mark in the regular season that earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

In Cleveland, Schottenheimer let Bernie Kosar sling the ball, but his teams fell victim to Hall-of-Fame quarterback John Elway. In Kansas City, his teams were run-oriented with big backs, so controlling the ball was smart football.

But Schottenheimer will no doubt take the brunt of the blame for the Chargers’ loss that dropped his playoff record to 5-13.

“It’s the nature of the business,” said Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson. “It shouldn’t be just the coach taking a lot of the heat, it should be the whole team. The coach wasn’t out there tackling and running and catching and throwing and blocking.”

In the first quarter, virtually the entire game was played in the Patriots’ end of the field, but the Chargers failed to score even a field goal.

The Chargers intercepted Tom Brady three times, but even when Marlon McCree picked off a Brady pass, it worked against the Chargers. McCree fumbled to give the ball right back to the Patriots with a first down in scoring position at the Chargers‘ 32-yard line. The Patriots scored a touchdown five plays later and tied the game 21-21 on a two-point conversion.

The Chargers also turned the ball over on a fumbled punt that led to a field goal and quarterback Philip Rivers was intercepted on a pass in Patriots’ territory. The Chargers committed foolish personal foul penalties that helped the Patriots.

The simple fan will blame Marty Ball, but in reality the Chargers lost because they didn’t play Marty Ball.

— TOM SHANAHAN

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