Ghosts of December Past

Since 1996, the last time the Chargers made a run at the playoffs, the Bolts have fashioned a 4-20 record in the Christmas month not including this year. The problem is the Chargers had lost three of the past four and the collapse appeared to be on.

The ghosts of Decembers past have yet to be buried, but a win this past weekend against Denver is a good start.

Welcome to December, the month that produces bad memories and rapid heart rates for longtime fans of the Chargers. Consider that the game this past Sunday against Denver was the first time in six years they are playing a meaningful game in December.

When it comes to December, nothing comes easy for the Chargers who are usually tuning up for the long golf season instead of the playoffs.

The pessimist says the Bolts have lost 3 of 5, the optimist says they have won 2 of 3. Last season, San Diego started 5-2, and finished 5-11. In 1999, a 4-1 opening vanished in a string of six losses. In 1998, 2-0 became 2-4. So these Chargers had reason to question themselves during a recent 1-3 stretch, which included two losses by a combined 58 points and a game they gave away after being up 10 in the fourth quarter.

Consider that the Chargers started this year with the toughest schedule in the league. The Bolts have beaten the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots, the Raiders in Oakland, San Francisco, and Denver. All of these team were expected to be in the playoffs this year. Now that is a good sign.

Still at 8-4 the battle has just begun. Teams are measured by how they respond during the tough December month. Now after yet another emotional win and the Chargers third in overtime this year there is more to prove. It starts this week against Oakland at home.

"Most of the time we go down there, San Diego has dropped off, and they're not really playing for anything, just to knock us off," Raiders receiver Tim Brown said Wednesday. "This year it's totally different. We're expecting it to be a home game for them."

Not since the 1981 AFC Championship Game has the stakes been this high. The Chargers brass could only have hoped the game would be this significant back in July, when it sent a letter to season ticket holders imploring them to "hang on to your tickets and bring fellow Chargers fans to that game." The team also announced at that time a policy it hoped would discourage Raiders fans from buying tickets.

The Chargers are averaging 3,127 more fans per game than they did in 2001. Three of their games this season rank among the franchise's all-time top 10 in attendance.

Fewer than 2,000 tickets remain for Sunday's game – about 900 club seats and several hundred single seats in general-admission sections. Fans who want those tickets will have to buy two to the Dec. 29 season finale against Seattle. The requirement, the Chargers say, is to remain consistent with the policy instituted in July.

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