In another tight game on Sunday, the Bolts used every means necessary to keep a desperate team from an upset. The Bucs, at 5-7 coming in, were on the cusp of the playoffs in the NFC. The Chargers are looking for some breathing room with Denver two games back in the division.
With a sellout crowd of 68,000 plus, the fans were part of the action. The rode the wave of emotions when it looked like the Bolts would go on top in the first quarter only to see an interception in the end zone.
They came to life when the Chargers scored and when the Bucs were in third down and anything, the roar was deafening. The stadium has never been louder.
Of course, there have been a lot of dull moments but that is changing fast. Perhaps memory is failing, but it sounded like a Big Ten game at Qualcomm on Sunday. The fans could sense the playoffs and were closing in for the kill. The dream is a home playoff game.
The only time you heard from a Tampa fan was in Florida.
In a stadium that many opponents have called home, high tide has rolled in. Fans donned in Charger blue and the many variations thereof were lining the bleachers to see their team – their ten and three team.
It is a shame the Bolts don't have another home game until the finale against the Chiefs because the fans have become a difference maker.
"The fans are unbelievable," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "I found myself getting excited with them over some of the things that were going on."
It is real and tangible. The Chargers have gone from a good team to a great team in a few short weeks. They are ten game winners – with three games to go!
For the natives it is a time that goes beyond special. For those that remember when Qualcomm was "The Murph" and the more common name "San Diego Stadium" prior to 1980 – where Willie Mays hit his 600th homer and knew that there was once ivy on the centerfield fence of the dual-sport venue, this is a time of rejoicing.
Linebacker Donnie Edwards may not remember it all, but he grew up down the street and when he didn't have tickets he would just patrol the parking lot to here the roar.
"Seeing 68,000 sold out fans in San Diego," Edwards said in reverence. "It has been ten years since we have had a winning season and for a little boy from National City that grew up watching the Chargers, it is a dream come true.
"I can't tell you how many times I watched games when I was a kid through the days of Air-Coryell. And now it is coming back and just winning and having that energy in the city, on the team and the community is just awesome. It is really exciting. Lucky to be a part and lucky to be in San Diego."
The Chargers fans are lucky to be a part of the magic. They are coming out to support their team and it is making a difference in the win-loss column. It is easy to forget how much they mean – but if you were at the game on Sunday, you will never forget. It was playoff atmosphere in a regular season game. A primer, not for what may happen, but what will happen.
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