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CHARGER REVIEW : NOTEBOOK : Consolation Prize: a 4th-Place Schedule

December 24, 1990|T.J. SIMERS

Denver's loss to Seattle Sunday night guaranteed a fourth-place finish in the AFC West Division for the Chargers.

As a result, the Chargers next season will play host to the AFC East fourth-place team (Jets), the AFC East second-place team (Miami), the NFC West second-place team (New Orleans) and the NFC West fourth-place finisher (presently Atlanta).

They will travel to play the AFC Central fourth-place team (Cleveland), the AFC Central third-place team (Houston or Cincinnati), the NFC West champion (San Francisco) and the NFC West third-place team (presently the Rams).

Denver will play the fifth-place schedule next season.

Defensive end Burt Grossman, who criticized teammate Leslie O'Neal for comments O'Neal had made, suffered a pair of broken ribs after accidently being hit by O'Neal.

"Does it hurt?" Grossman said. "No, it doesn't hurt. I had about 12 shots and 80-some pills, so it doesn't hurt at all."

Grossman will not be able to play Sunday against the Raiders, and when asked about the defeat to the Chiefs, he said, "I'm near death and you're asking me that."

Starting free safety Vencie Glenn and tackle Joel Patten suffered cervical strains, and tackle Leo Goeas sprained his knee. The club said it will be later in the week before the extent of those injuries are known, and also announced that quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver hurt his foot and left elbow.

When the Chargers next play in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium sometime next August, will Rod Bernstine be wearing lightning bolts?

The Chargers think Bernstine is a wimp. They believe he won't play injured, and they question his intestinal fortitude.

"I don't give a . . ." Bernstine said when asked about the impression the Chargers have of him. "Who gives a . . . I went out and played. I can't control that."

Bernstine, who was on injured reserve with a hamstring pull for the past four weeks, ran for a career-high 76 yards on 15 carries. His second-effort running was the highlight of the day for the Chargers.

If the other 46 Chargers on the roster gave the effort Bernstine gives when he carries the ball, maybe the team wouldn't be looking at an eight-year playoff drought.

In the fourth quarter Bernstine took a handoff and appeared stone-cold stopped at his own 35-yard line, but he kept his legs moving and took the pile with him to the 40-yard line. Left behind were a pair of injured players, Patten and Chiefs linebacker Percy Snow.

When Coach Dan Henning was asked if Bernstine's run was encouraging, he responded less-than-enthusiastically: "Somewhat. We didn't feature Bernstine as much because he's not 100%. But in the third quarter he ran very well and popped a couple.

"He was very strong, which was very encouraging. He moved the pile pretty good, which was encouraging."

Bernstine is completing the final year of his contract and is represented by Ralph Cindrich, who had a hand in the Gary Anderson negotiations. The Chargers probably will invite trade talk.

Too bad.

It's only the 15th game of the season, and it's tough to add to 11.

Just ask Lee Williams and Grossman. They put a hard rush on Chiefs quarterback Steve DeBerg on Kansas City's first possession and sacked him. However, the officials noted that the Chargers' defense had 12 defenders on the field.

Scratch the only sack the Chargers would get all day and the seven-yard loss, and give the Chiefs five yards on the penalty to the Chargers.

Practice, practice, practice . . . The Chargers' offense also went into its comedy routine the first time it had the ball. On third and three from the Chiefs' 33, Tolliver turned around to hand the ball to Bernstine, only to find Bernstine long gone.

Tolliver, who is considered the slowest human being to ever wear a football uniform, kept the ball, plugged ahead and fell forward three yards for the first down.

What to give the Chargers for Christmas? A lesson in time management.

The Chargers, as they have done all season, mismanaged the remaining time in the first half.

After Tolliver completed an eight-yard pass to Craig McEwen to the San Diego 48, he let six to eight seconds tick by before grabbing the attention of the referee for a timeout.

No problem: In time, they were forced to punt.

Maybe Gill Byrd was told that Chiefs' wide receiver Emile Harry didn't vote for him in Pro Bowl balloting.

Harry went across the middle in the third quarter and appeared to have caught a pass from DeBerg. But then Byrd arrived with the hit of the season.

Byrd threw his body shoulder-high into Harry and Harry dropped the ball. The officials ruled the pass incomplete.

Chiefs' running back Barry Word became the first back to gain more than 100 yards against the Chargers this season when he ran for 106 yards on 28 carries. Word ran 17 times for 90 yards in the previous meeting for the Chargers, which was the highest mark against San Diego until Sunday.

Charger linebacker Henry Rolling on the abysmal defense in the first half: "It even surprised me. The second half was the Charger team. The first half, I don't know who that was playing."

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