The Los Angeles Chargers fully expected to return to Hoag Performance Center in the wee hours of the morning, get some sleep and then begin preparations for the AFC Championship Game.
Instead, they'll meet one last time before packing up their lockers and going their separate ways until April.
An incredible season ended abruptly in New England as the Bolts fell 41-28 to the New England Patriots. While the 2018 Chargers have a lot to be proud of, they were left with an empty feeling inside as well as a bitterness that won't soon go away.
As Russell Okung noted, he hopes it stays with them for a long, long time.
"I like to feel it," he said. "I want it to hurt. I want to be disgusted about it. I want to be angry about it because I know it's going to fuel us moving into the offseason. It's going to push us even more so. I think a lot of the other guys feel that way, too. They know that we left a lot out there on the field and that we're capable of so much more. So, I believe in these guys and I think we'll use these moments to draw closer and build on it."
He's far from the only one to feel that way.
"It'll linger into next year," Joey Bosa said. "We'll still have this salty taste in our mouth. I hope (we all) do. (That we) remember losing and what it takes to truly win because this wasn't it. Like I keep saying, just using it as a motivating factor in the next year."
Coming up short of the overall goal clearly stings. However, knowing how hard it is to even get to the Divisional Round adds some salt to the wound.
Just ask Philip Rivers.
"Guys have to know how tough it is to get to (this round)," he said. "I think it's easy in the heat of the moment to say, 'Hey, we'll be back and we'll get it done next year.' That's a long way from now, to get to right here. Let's not forget how hard it was to get here, and we can appreciate that and then learn from the highs and the lows and the good and the bad of this game so we can fight to find our way back in this game. And then, how can this game help us."
Overall, Rivers was quite emotional as the season came to an abrupt end.
"It's tough," he said. "I was excited this week, I was excited to come back here. It was an emotional week a little bit just being back here in the postseason after being here 11 years ago almost to the day. I think like every team, when you go into the game, you expect to win, and I certainly thought we were going to have a better outing. But we didn't. So, it is emotional because I think you know how hard it is to get to January the 13th and be in a playoff game. You're talking an eight, nine month deal, and to come up short again is tough. A lot of good this year, I think as the dust settles you can appreciate more of that. But certainly a disappointing finish. You get up and start again."
In fact, for Isaac Rochell, it's seeing the disappointment in the eyes of Rivers and Antonio Gates that makes his heart sink even more.
"When I look at Phil and Gates and guys like that, that's what hurts the most," he said. "It hurts me. I always want to win and I always hate to lose, but when you look at those guys and you just know and feel how much it hurts them, that's what really makes it tough."
It'll take a while to get over this loss, as it should. The ultimate goal is to win a championship, and anytime you fall short of that, it hurts. However, the closer you get to the prize the more it stings to come up empty, which is why Okung and his teammates stressed remembering this feeling.
So, while it's far too early to begin talking about next year, shortly after the clock struck zero and the team's 2018 season came to an official end, we got the first inkling of the mindset the team will take heading into 2019.
"I've learned that no one game doesn't define who we are and our football season, for sure," Lynn said about the loss to the Patriots. "And those men, they fought hard all year and there were some difficult situations that we fought back and won. And today, we just couldn't get that done. But like I said, I liked the way they came out and competed in the second half. And you know, I'm not sure if you can take away anything from this one game today. You know, we got our butts kicked today. But we can learn a lot from this year and this season from one another. It's not a comfortable moment for us, for sure, but I think in these times we can learn a lot about ourselves. And we can grow and be a better person, better teammate, better coach."
Browse through the top game action photos as the Bolts take on the New England Patriots during the divisional round of playoffs.