SAN DIEGO — The wide receiver who caught the winning pass didn't know what the play was.
The coach didn't think his team could recover from an 18-point first-half deficit.
The Washington Redskins did not seem to have a full and rational understanding of what happened in Sunday's 30-27 win over the San Diego Chargers before 57,853, the second largest crowd ever to see a Charger game at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
They were not alone.
After all, the Redskins were matched against a pass defense that has been pitiful for years.
The Charger defensive coordinator called what he later said was the wrong coverage on the game's critical play, a 55-yard pass from quarterback Jay Schroeder to wide receiver Gary Clark.
A moment later Schroeder hit Clark on a 14-yard pass play for a touchdown that gave Washington a 3-0 record and a nine-game winning streak against the AFC West.
The Chargers slipped to 1-2 with upcoming road games against the Raiders and Seattle.
The Chargers, who were ranked 28th in the National Football League in pass defense before the game, secured their last-place standing by surrendering 341 passing yards. Most of the yards were accumulated by Redskin Art Monk, who had 7 catches for 174 yards, and Clark, who made 6 receptions for 144 yards.
Meanwhile, the Charger offense sputtered again. After soaring to a 50-28 win over the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago, quarterback Dan Fouts threw five interceptions last week against the Giants and had three more against the Redskins.
"We just about closed the coffin, but we couldn't get the last nail in," said tight end Kellen Winslow, who was upset that the Chargers had to settle for two second half field goals after leading 21-3 in the second quarter and 21-10 at halftime.
"They had our guys in kind of a state of shock in the first half," Washington Coach Joe Gibbs said. "We really didn't have a sense we could come back the way we did.
Ron Lynn, the San Diego defensive coordinator, couldn't seem to understand why his team hadn't been in a different coverage when Schroeder lofted a 55-yard pass to Clark with less than two minutes to play.
To his credit, Lynn blamed himself for not calling a deep zone on the play which preceded Clark's game-winning 14-yard catch.
But he didn't limit his criticism to himself.
"The rush could have been better, the corner could have been deeper, the safety could have gotten a better break on the ball and we could have been in a zone defense," Lynn said.
As it was Clark was able to get a step on cornerback Wayne Davis with an out-and-up move with the Chargers in man-to-man coverage.
"I wasn't even sure what the play was," Clark said later in recounting his game-winning reception."I never heard it in the huddle because of the crowd noise." The Chargers, scored on two of three possessions in the first quarter Sunday en route to a 21-10 halftime lead.
The Chargers amassed 106 yards rushing and limited Washington to 42 in the first half. However, the Redskins altered their defense in the second half and held the Chargers to just 41 ground yards. When the Chargers needed to control the ball late in the fourth quarter, they were unable to.
With a first down at their 33 and about three minutes remaining, the Chargers gave the ball to Lionel James and Gary Anderson, who were stopped for no gains. On third down, Fouts tried to throw to Trumaine Johnson, but Darrell Green knocked down his pass.
The Redskins got the ball with 2:19 left, and three plays later they won the game.
Following a 34-yard punt by Steve Cox, the Chargers had to go only 47 yards to seize 14-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.
A short run by Buford McGee was set up by an excellent catch by Winslow, who reached up with his left hand to stab a Fouts pass at the Washington one-yard line.
Anderson was the centerpiece of a second-quarter drive that gave the Chargers a 21-3 lead. The Redskins got back in the game on a two-yard scoring run by George Rogers. A 37-yard kickoff return by Ken Jenkins and a 38-yard pass to Monk accounted for much of the damage. The Chargers missed a chance to expand their lead after getting to the Washington nine with 11 seconds to go in the first half. Passing up a field goal attempt, the Chargers went for a touchdown, but Fouts' pass was picked off by Vernon Dean.