At 5 a.m. the morning after the Chargers were ousted from the playoffs by the Jets, 17-14, San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding sat in a dark room watching his three missed field goals. 

Kaeding, who withdrew from the Pro Bowl after suffering a slight tear in his groin at practice this week, is trying to move on from the debacle. But he told Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday that the past couple of weeks have been hard on him.

“I was just really blindsided by it,” Kaeding said. “I was looking for answers.”

Just a few hours after his injury he said: “Stay 10 yards away from me; I’m not good luck right now. It’s beyond unbelievable. I’m laughing to keep from crying.”

Kaeding made 91.4 percent of his kicks this season (the fourth highest percentage in the league) with a long of 55 yards. But he shanked attempts from 36 (wide left), 57 (short) and 40 yards (wide right) in his most important game of the season.

He thought about pulling out of the Pro Bowl before his injury, but then realized it would be as good a chance as any to get back on the horse.

“It’s not my nature to run and hide,” he said. “I sat and thought about it. I said, ‘It’s my job to come kick the football, and I’m going to do it.’

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“The circumstances of the last week have been so overwhelming … the last thing I want to do is look at a football. But I decided I needed to suck it up, be a man and go down [to South Florida].”

Kaeding has consulted a sports psychologist the past four years and believes it is helping him, but his playoff struggles continue. For a kicker with the best regular season success rate in history (87.2 percent) to be just 8 of 15 in the playoffs, is inexplicable.

And Kaeding knows until he changes that, he will be viewed as a choker.

“It’s been a nightmarish scenario,” he said. “To have it going so good and over one day, to go so bad … It’s hard right now, if not impossible, to wrap my head around and figure out what went wrong.

“I was not mentally tough enough on that day,” he continued. “But trust me, I’m pulling myself up. I know 100 percent for sure, I am tough enough to make field goals in the playoffs. I wish I had that chance tomorrow.”