By Justin Henry (@jrhwriting)
Cold, Hard Football Facts Grief Counselor for all Six Jaguars Fans
Carelessness. Letting down one's guard. Assuming all is serene and tranquil, thus leaving your mammilla open for a cuspidated instrument of doom to pierce your heart.
A sudden death renders your final words filled with regret.
While a slow, agonizing dissolution will allow for one to make peace with their terminus, having to face the whetted end of the reaper's scythe, moments after frolicking and fancying about, leaves you little time to reflect with anything but shock, bitterness, and condemnation, self or otherwise.
The most contrite of these barren bodies that wind up in my morgue had glory between their grubby mitts, only to have it snatched away by a more enterprising mercenary.
During the 2012 NFL regular season, teams leading at halftime would ultimately lose 61 of those games.
Some great teams, such as Atlanta, Denver, and Houston, never lost after taking a lead into halftime.
Others, like Philadelphia and Detroit, floundered away four games apiece.
If the Eagles and Lions' carelessness and inclinations toward defeat were shooed away, they would each have been 8-8. Instead, both squads were 4-12, and made their most jaded backers wistful for the glory days of Rich Kotite and Rod Marinelli.
But fear not, bird-and-cat devotees: some poor soul out there had it far worse.
The 2012 San Diego Chargers hacked away five games in which they led at halftime.
Ahhh, those hapless Chargers. The contorted grimaces of Philip Rivers, harried outbursts of Norv Turner, and shambled feet of Ryan Mathews represent the bodywork of underachievement. The face of this feeble Frankenstein was AJ Smith, whose management skills would make John DeLorean weep.
After missing the playoffs the two previous seasons (following a 2009 "one and done" against the Jets, despite being 13-3), San Diego was offered a voluminous hurdle in the form of Peyton Manning, who took the reins as Denver's quarterback.
The Chargers would finish 7-9, after beginning the year 3-1. All five their blown leads came over the stretch of the final twelve games.
To think, had they simply clamped down with an iron duress, they would have been 12-4, and most assuredly given a playoff berth.
To make matters worse, the five turnaround defeats came during a mid-season run in which the Chargers lost seven of eight games. In other words, of the seven losses, the Chargers held a mid-game lead in five of those.
The jolting wallop of the awakened enemy is a carcinogen to the body of the complacent, tactically-spent protagonist.
A brief gander at each game:
|Date/Week||Opponent||Halftime Score||2nd Half Score||Final Score|
|Oct. 7/Week 5||at New Orleans||17-14||7-17||24-31|
|Oct. 15/Week 6||vs. Denver||24-0||0-35||24-35|
|Nov. 11/Week 10||at Tampa Bay||21-17||3-17||24-34|
|Nov. 25/Week 12||vs. Baltimore||10-0||3-16 (plus OT)||13-16 OT|
|Dec. 2/Week 13||vs. Cincinnati||13-10||0-10||13-20|
AT NEW ORLEANS, OCTOBER 7: San Diego actually extended their lead to 24-14 early in the third, following a Quentin Jammer interception and Mathews touchdown.
With 4:46 to go in the third, the Chargers punted at the Saints 46-yard line, and it all fell apart.
The Saints would score on their next three drives (two Marques Colston touchdowns and a field goal), while the Chargers sputtered.
In the second half, Rivers went 13/20 for 142 yards, no touchdowns, and a pick. He was sacked four times, fumbling on the last one after Martez Wilson blew past ailing tackle Jared Gaither.
At one point on the final drive, the Chargers were penalized three straight plays; twice for holding, and once for offensive interference on Antonio Gates.
VS. DENVER, OCTOBER 15: A tale of two halves to be certain, given that new-division rival Manning (who perennially struggled against the Chargers as a Colt) was buried 24-0 at the midway point.
But the Broncos came storming back like a violent, rapier-wielding Lazarus. Manning led an eight-play touchdown drive to begin the half.
The Chargers countered by puncturing to the Broncos' 33. That's when Elvis Dumervil sacked Rivers, forcing a fumble that Tony Carter took back 65 yards to make it a 24-14 game.
San Diego went three-and-out, and Manning led another eight-play touchdown drive. One drive later, Rivers threw an interception to Carter, who brought the ball to midfield. Five plays later, another touchdown pass undid all of the Chargers' first-half work.
By the time Chris Harris executed the denouemental pick-six, the Chargers coughed up another lead. It was the first time anyone had seen 35 unanswered since Vince Young took the Wonderlic.
AT TAMPA BAY, NOVEMBER 11: following a bye week, a sputtering loss to the Browns, and a bullish lambaste of the Chiefs, the Chargers continued their theme of handing over games.
Though a 21-17 halftime lead is still anybody's ballgame, it's more simple errors by the Bolts that led to their downfall.
The Buccaneers took the lead with 4:16 remaining in the third, striking on a Tiquan Underwood touchdown.
The Chargers responded by driving down to Tampa's 23-yard line before Rivers unfurled a pick-six Leonard Johnson. San Diego's only recourse was a field goal to make it 31-24.
However, the Chargers were given a chance to even the score. With 3:53 left on the day, San Diego began a drive on their 22. Rivers was first sacked for a 10 yard loss, and then threw an interception on the next play.
VS. BALTIMORE, NOVEMBER 25: following a painful loss to the Broncos that dropped San Diego to 4-6, they were faced with a pair of must-win games at home.
The Chargers' underrated defense held Baltimore scoreless, with the Ravens punting on all six of their first-half possessions.
However, it was the Chargers who punted six times in the second half and overtime combined, netting just a third quarter field goal.
Baltimore tied it 13-all at the end of regulation via Justin Tucker's 38-yard boot. The Chargers led off overtime with possession.
First, they punted. Then the Ravens did. San Diego did again. Then the Ravens unleashed a 12-play, 69-yard drive that ended with one more kick through the uprights.
San Diego managed just 80 yards in the second half, 72 of which came on the field goal drive. No other possesion netted more than 8 yards.
VS. CINCINNATI, DECEMBER 2: with the Chargers' playoff hopes fading like the parchment bearing Columbus' travel memoirs, a win was needed against the Bengals, wide-margin winners of three straight.
The Chargers went into the half off of Nick Novak's time-elapsing field goal, but had no offensive touchdowns to show for their efforts. Their lone touchdown was off of a Demorrio Williams interception.
San Diego managed just 97 yards in the second half, 63 of which came on the final drive. That ended in a game-sealing interception.
Their other second-half possessions included four punts, a missed 54-yard field goal, and a Carlos Dunlap sack-fumble that led to Cincy's final field goal.
Philip Rivers' Second-Half Stats For the Five Games
|vs BAL (plus OT)||12/18||80||0||0||76.2|
Overall: 61/104, 538 yards, 0 TD, 7 INT for a 44.5 passer rating
A third-straight year of no playoffs doomed Norv Turner and sourfaced codger AJ Smith.Over the course of those five games, the Chargers were outscored 95-13 in the second half. In only one second half did San Diego even score a touchdown.
Offensive wunderkind Mike McCoy will now be tasked with making sure the second-half play remains as strong as earlier efforts.
If not, he'll be the one muttering words of regret as another hopeful season fades to black.