It was an expectedly morose visitor's locker room at Gillette Stadium as the Chargers saw their season come to an end following a 41-28 loss to the Patriots.
The Bolts gave full credit to the Pats for out-executing them in all three phases, stressing how they were the better team on Sunday.
"Tip my hat off to New England," Head Coach Anthony Lynn said. "They played a heck of a football game today. We dug ourselves in a hole in the first half, but the guys came back out in the second half and competed hard. It was a little too late. We didn't play our best game today, for whatever reason, but like I said, my hat (goes) off to New England. They've been here before and they showed up today…. We got our butts kicked today."
Adrian Phillips was just as blunt in his assessment of their performance.
"We laid an egg today," he said. "We didn't show up how we usually do."
He was far from the only one who felt that way.
"We knew what to expect," Joey Bosa explained. "We knew their tendencies. We knew (Tom Brady) was going to get rid of the ball quick, we're just going to have to keep rushing. They just executed better than us, so not much else to say."
"Horrible time to have a bad day," added Damion Square.
However, everyone in the locker room also gave full credit to the Patriots.
As Square went on to explain, New England had everything to do with the Bolts' disappointing performance.
"You can't be so cliché in football and say that we just had an awful day," he said. "You cannot do that. It sounds good, but I played on a lot of championship teams. To say we were just bad, that's for the birds. They won today, that's the end of it. It's a lot of intangibles that go into the game. But Tom Brady is 22-2 in the playoffs at home, so it's not an easy thing to come in here and get a dub. Shot our best shot out there today, it wasn't even close to good enough, and unfortunately, you've got to go back through the whole grind."
Lynn stressed earlier in the week how you have to bring your A-game on every play vs. the Patriots. Unfortunately, the Chargers put themselves behind the eight-ball from the very beginning.
New England got off to a fast start, marching down the field to take an early 7-0 lead while gobbling up half the first quarter. While the Chargers struck back, knotting the game at 7-7 on a Philip Rivers dime to Keenan Allen, the Patriots would find the end zone on their first four possessions, racing out to a 28-7 advantage midway through the second quarter.
As Bosa explained, it wasn't as if the Bolts didn't know what was coming. They just weren't able to stop it.
"Tom just does such a good job of getting the ball out," Bosa said. "I think the o-line did a pretty good job of selling pass and getting us upfield. I guess we just didn't do a good job of rallying to the screen like we needed to. As d-linemen, it gets pretty frustrating pass rushing and it just being quick throws over and over and over again. But obviously, no excuses. I just really don't think our defense - our team - executed the way we needed to."
However, to place the loss squarely on the defense's shoulders is unfair.
While the defense tried to take the blame, Philip Rivers wouldn't hear of it. As he explained, the offense was every bit as responsible.
"We knew offensively that our defense was going to settle in and they needed us, and we didn't hold up our end offensively," he said. "A couple missed third down conversions (and) just lack of execution on our end…. I know our defensive guys have probably said they're disappointed in how they played, but it was a collective team loss. Just how we've won 13 games together, we've lost all five together and it was no different today. They were just better than us."
As Rivers noted, while the offense was able to move the ball in spurts, they weren't able to sustain drives, punting it back to the Patriots. Overall, the Bolts had only 20 snaps the entire first half.
"They did a heck of a job picking us apart," Lynn said. "But we did not play good complementary football. Complementary football is what got us here, in all three phases. Today, we just didn't play well enough… We couldn't get a stop defensively, and when we got on the field offensively, we've got to stay on the field. We had 20 plays in the first half and that's just not enough plays to get into a rhythm. And I thought that hurt us."
A big part of that was the team's inability to run the football. In fact, the Bolts mustered only 19 yards on the ground all day, by far their lowest output of the season.
"The running game never existed today," Lynn said. "We got in the hole too fast. We got down by three scores pretty quick, and it's kind of hard to stick with it when you get down that much early.… And so, whenever we aren't balanced on offense, then you know, we tend to struggle to stay on the football field."
Overall, the Bolts stressed how the Patriots were simply the better team and deserved the victory. At the same time, it was a tough pill to swallow to have the season end in a game that was not indicative of the way they played all year long.
"It's just unexpected," Isaac Rochell summed up. "I mean, you expect to go to the Super Bowl and win until otherwise, and the otherwise just came today. We just weren't expecting it. Like I said, they played a great game. They played better than us today, so there's really not much to it."