The Bucs game could hinge upon the team's momentum heading into the game. A few more wins and it will be hard for anyone to miss out on the game and the finale against Kansas City could have playoff ramifications.
"I am pleased to see the crowd response," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "The fans are beginning to give us a true home-field advantage."
The game was far from a sellout on Sunday but the place was loud. It is, of course, easier to get rowdy when the Chargers are putting points on the board during restroom breaks. It takes longer to get a nacho plate than it does for the Chargers to take it in the end zone. "Our players are beginning to recognize that if you perform the way you are capable, the fans will be there to support them," added Schottenheimer. It is admittedly hard to get the surfers inside to watch a television or to come in from the waves to be confined in a chair at Qualcomm. But the wins are piling up and the season has been more authentic than their 6-1 start two years ago.
At the stadium, things are heating up. The word is spreading and who can miss the greatest show on the coast.
As they wins stack, the anonymity starts to fade. Instead of the people ignoring the players or offering encouragement after a loss, they are offering praise.
"It is great to hear the ‘Great game! We love to see you win!' As opposed to the ‘Keep your head up.' We appreciate any of the support," quarterback Drew Brees said before admitting how much fun it is to have the positive reinforcements.
The bandwagon is making pit stops all through San Diego and the surrounding counties. At the office, many are wondering what is going on with the Chargers. ‘Are they for real,' asks the casual fan. And suddenly they are making plans to throw a barbeque together to watch the game in Oakland after the bye week.
When they return home to face Denver, a happy crowd may be awaiting them and the game against Denver could be an early indicator of who will win the division.
"It's been amazing," rookie Shaun Phillips said. And Phillips, much like his Purdue brethren Brees, knows a thing or two about crowds after playing in the Big Ten. "There are a lot of fans out here showing support."
The 12th man is an underrated aspect of football. Fans can throw off the timing of a snap, pump the defense up and give that extra breath of air when a player is running on empty. They are the lifeblood of football and each day a new Charger fan is popping up in a neighborhood near you. It is your job to simply nod and educate them so they can become the diehards like the rest of us.
Justin Peelle has an ankle injury that might involve a minor arthroscopic procedure. His status for Oakland was uncertain as the monitor his progress.