My Fav-5 Charger Memories

January 6, 2009 at 11:16 am (Uncategorized)

The Chargers beating the Colts on Saturday was an amazing game. But was it my all time favorite Charger memory?

5. Chargers defeat Denver to win AFC West 12/28/08

This was an incredible game simply because of all that it took for the Chargers to get there. At 4-8 the Chargers season looked completely over. I remember leaving after a brutal loss to Atlanta feeling like this was the biggest waste of a football season ever. While I knew it was mathematically possible for the Chargers to still make the playoffs I also knew the chances were microscopic. But there we were 4 weeks later tailgating in the Qualcomm parking lot waiting for a Sunday night game that would decide which team was headed to the playoffs. There was so much confidence in the air and after the first quarter the game was never in doubt. The crowd was terrific, loud, boisterous, and jubilant. Never had an 8-8 team been so beloved by it’s fan base.

4. Chargers defeat Colts in 2007 playoffs to advance to AFC championship game.

The 11-5 Chargers heading across the country to face the defending Super Bowl Champion Colts in what would be their final home game in the RCA dome. The Chargers suffered injuries to their three main offensive stars meaning it would take heroic efforts from Billy Volek, Michael Turner, Darren Sproles and Legedu Naanee to win this game. Well that’s exactly what we got as the Chargers drove down to take a 4 point fourth quarter lead and the defense was able to stifle Payton Manning on 2 more possessions where he could have won the game.

3. LT breaks record for Touchdowns and points in a season against Denver. 2006

The catalyst of the Chargers dominant 14-2 season was the unbelievable MVP performances of LaDainian Tomlinson. In just the 14th week of the regular season (13th game) LT stood two touchdowns away from tying Shaun Alexander’s record of 28 TD’s in a single season. We all knew he was going to break the record at some point during the next 3 weeks but it didn’t seem likely to happen in this game. Although he was able to tie the record with a few minutes left in the 4th quarter it took a Shawne Merriman forced fumble at the 7 yard line with a little more than 3 minutes left to play to get him back into the game in prime position to score the record breaker. What was so cool about this game and this season was that every single time the Chargers got into the red zone the crowd would chant, “L.T., L.T., L.T,”. We knew exactly whom the ball was going to, the defense knew exactly what was going to happen, but nothing could possibly stop him from scoring. When you follow a fumble with a record breaking TD against the hated Denver Broncos you have the recipe for an incredible memory.

2. Chargers defeat Pittsburgh Steelers in 94 AFC championship game.

The great thing about this playoff run was that it seemed like the entire city was pushing for the Chargers. There were lightening bolts everywhere you looked. Having to go into Pittsburgh didn’t seem like a good situation at all for the Chargers, Pittsburgh was the dominant team that season so when Dennis Gibson batted down the Steelers last chance at victory I honestly think the entire city of San Diego erupted into jubilation.

1. Chargers defeat Colts in OT January 3rd 2008

Just a week earlier my Dad asked me, “was that the greatest game you’ve ever been to?” (refering to number 5 on my list) I had told him that I actually felt the LT record breaking game was more memorable and a greater volume, but as far as significance this game certainly had meant more. Then came this game, a memory that will be difficult to beat.

I wasn’t supposed to go to this game. All week I had expected to be watching it on my couch. Then the strangest thing imaginable happened. I got a random text from my good friend Ted Dawson asking me if I knew of anyone who was looking to go to the game (He had thought I was going). When I told him that I wanted to go he graciously offered me the tickets. I repeatedly declined telling him I couldn’t afford it but if there is one thing everyone knows about Ted it’s that he doesn’t take “no” for an answer; even when it comes to giving tickets away.

I sent a text message to both of my brothers saying “the first one to reply to this message gets to go to the game with me.” My brother with the blackberry won by defying California’s newly written “don’t text while driving” rule.

My Dad and my uncle Bruce, along with Matt and Eric Simila, Paul and myself all got down to the stadium around 2PM. Mom had put together a great spread of food and we sat around ate, drank and played some hearts for a couple of hours. There was a strange feeling of confidence in the air. Even though most, if not all, of the national media wasn’t giving the Chargers a chance in this game the 68,000+ fans who were there all had the same thought in mind… “We own Payton Manning”. We kept saying it over and over, not as though we were trying to convince or reassure ourselves but actually in a way that we truly believed it. What we could not believe was that again we might have to win without LT who had suffered a pulled groin near the end of the Denver game.

Our seats were up there; row 15 of about 25 in the upper view pretty close to the main scoreboard. Sure they were high but with the exception of a small corner of the near endzone we could see the whole field. It didn’t matter how high we were, what mattered was that we were there! We felt a tremendous amount of responsibility in being there. We knew that part of Manning’s success is due to his ability to communicate to his offense up until the very last second. We knew that if we, the crowd, could somehow hinder that ability we could certainly win this game. Remember, “we own Peyton Manning”.

The first offensive play LT runs right side for a 15 yard gain and the crowd goes nuts! We knew he was fine. He’s going to be great. We are going to win.

Drive stalls.

Mike Scifres boomed his first of 6 jaw dropping punts inside the Colts 20. Now it’s our time… cheering, screaming, clapping, chanting… false start! We were doing our job. Third down came up and Manning threw a bomb down the right sideline falling harmlessly to the ground. But out came the dreaded Pass Interference flag. These flags seem so arbitrary and unduly thrown at Chargers it has become quite tiresome this season. The crowd responded with utter disgust raining down a chorus of “boos” and expletives on the officials we were all so certain were out to get us. But the defense stepped up! With the Colts just about 7 or 8 yards away from a legitimate field goal try the defense prevented two passes in a row and forced a punt that went for a touchback. “We own Peyton Manning.”

Only able to gain 7 yards on this possession again we were able to witness the incredible power of Mike Scifres who put the ball all the way back to the Colts 15. The San Diego football fans are smarter than a lot of national media gives us credit for. The booming punt didn’t just move the Colts back but it also motivated the crowd who were so loud that  on the Colts very next play committed their second false start.

Here came the only legitimate scoring drive of Peyton Manning’s night and it came by aiming passes at whichever wide receiver was able to get himself into Tim Dobbins zone. Tim Dobbins has been absolutely awful in coverage all season long. This game was no exception. As Anthony Gonzalez ran out of the Cooper occupied zone and into the Dobbins zone Manning delivered a strike followed by a complete miss tackle and 36 yards later The Colts found themselves in the Red Zone where it’s pretty difficult to stop them. 3 plays later it was 7 nothing Colts. But hey we all know the Colts are going to score. We just need to score more, right?

The Chargers next drive got them to midfield but that’s it setting up another terrific Scifres punt that put the Colts at the 3 yard line. Unable to do anything from this far back and aided by another crowd induced penalty (delay of game) the Colts had to punt from the very back of their endzone. Sproles returned it to the Indy 44 where just a few plays later LT ran in it for the tie!

The Colts would then drive the ball down for a field goal to take a 3 point lead. The next alternating possessions again pushed the Colts back to within their ten via Mike Scifres incredible skills and the Chargers, courtesy of Hunter Smith’s shank job got the ball back in Indy territory again. This time setting up a Sproles TD run. At this point is was pretty clear that we wouldn’t be seeing LT in the game again and that it would take another heroic effort from the bench to win this thing.

Even though Eric Weddle dropped a sure pick-6 near the end of the half the crowd was very excited to be going into the locker room up by 4 points. 14 to 10 at the half. We can win this!

The Colts didn’t look very good on offense. “We own Payton Manning” was beginning to be chanted a little in the stands and then the unthinkable happened. A school yard trick play that had been set up all game. Seeing that the Chargers were substituting Manning quick snapped the ball and caught Cromartie completely off guard as he was looking to the sideline to get the defensive signals. Easiest 72 yard TD in history. The Colts were up by 3 but there was plenty of time left.

Not for making mistakes though.

And that’s what started to happen. The Chargers were able to mount an impressive drive on their very next possession but it ended suddenly with a Sproles fumble at the 2 yard line!

It’s OK, there’s lots of time left.

Not for making mistakes though.

And that’s what happened again as the Chargers again drove the ball down the field only to have Rivers throw an INT in the endzone!

Is this it? Is this how it’s going to end with mistake filled football?

We’ve been to that opera before, it starred Marlon McCree and Eric Parker, we don’t want that lady tuning up again.

The Colts got the ball at the 20 and put together a 13 play 6 minute drive that looked to be effective enough in running the clock out to limit the Chargers to one final possession.

The possession was stopped in horrible fashion when the Chargers needing just 10 yards for a field goal chance got sacked on third down forcing Mike Scifres to have to punt again on 4th and 19 with just 2:50 left on the clock.

The Chargers would need something special here and they got it with what I think was the most amazing punt I have ever seen. A 52 yard bomb that hit at the 2 yard line and bounced directly sideways out of bounds. Unreal!

Now if we can just stop them. Addai runs for 6 yards on the first carry! Noooo! You know they have to run it there you gotta stop him! 2 yards on the next carry! Ahhh. Peyton Manning now needs only to get his team 2 yards and the game is over!

The crowd mans up. This is it. We need to do something, force a false start, a delay of game, anything to prevent this from ending right here. After watching the replay over and over I am convinced that the crowd was the cause of what happened next.

The Colts blocking tight end, afraid of committing a false start and unable to hear Manning missed the snap of the ball and Tim “I couldn’t cover a one legged midget” Dobbins came around the corner untouched for sack at the 1 yard line forcing a punt and a final chance.

Hunter Smith then launched a rocket of a punt 63 yards but in doing so he completely out kicked his coverage which had to be back to prevent a block. Sproles was able to dart 26 yards all the way to the Indy 38 where two 11 yard completions from Rivers to Gates set up the game tying filed goal attempt. And here was Scifres biggest play of the game. Mike Scifres is not just the punter but also the holder for field goal attempts. This is usually an easy job since David Binn happens to be a machine when it come to delivering accurate long snaps. Not here though. The snap was low skidding just off the dirt where Scifres was able to, in one perfect motion, pick it and place it in a perfect hold for a perfect kick and a perfectly tied game that would go into overtime!

We all know how overtime works in the NFL, but not all of the player do. So thanks to Donavan McNabb we had to listen to the referee explain OT playoff rules for what seemed like 10 minutes. Finally he asked Payton Manning, as the visiting team captain to call it. Manning, afraid to get the call wrong, deferred to the guy standing next to him (I have no clue who it is). He said, “heads” and as the coin was tossed into the air the entire stadium in one voice yelled out “TAILLLLLLLLLLS!” and as the coin hit the ground settling into the grass the crowd went completely silent. It was as though we were on a submarine afraid of being destroyed by torpedoes. It was more quiet than any moment of silence I’ve ever experienced. It was sooooo eerie. All eyes were on the video boards as the camera focused in on the coin. Blurry, blurry, blurry, CLEAR. There it is. It’s, it’s it’s… What is that? The coins they use are completely foreign to the fans so we have no idea if it’s heads or tails. In fact it seems like the only guy in the stadium who knows what it is, is Kassim Osgood who claps his hands together and grins ear to ear. Finally the referee says, “It is tails.” And the crowd roars an unbelievable roar.

Just get into field goal range! You can do this.

-1, incomplete, 13 yard pass first down!

6 yards, penalty, crap it’s holding… on the defense! First down!

2 yards, 8 yards first down!

Incomplete, 2 yards, Incomplete but that has to be PI! Defensive holding again? YES! First down at the 35! This is it! We’re in field goal range; just get a few more yards!

No gain but another flag, crap this looks like holding. We are going to be out of field goal range! Wait, personal foul? Face Mask? Defense!!!! The 20 yard line!!!!

Kick the ball now. Don’t wait just kick it!

Rush for a loss of 2? Noooooo! Kick it!

Sproles to the left, he just lost 2 yards going to the left?!?!

Wait he’s got room. He breaks a tackle, He’s got one guy at the 8, he cuts inside!

HE IS IN! HE IS IN! WE WIN! WE WIN! YESSSSSSS!

Screw the high fives this is hugging time!

What a game! What a moment! What a memory!

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14 Comments

  1. Albino Hayford said,

    I’ll never forget the 1994 season. Everybody became a Charger fan, and Pastor Doug, in a moment of giddiness over lunch, promised us that Living Way would host a Superbowl party if the Chargers made it to the big game. So when the Chargers stopped the Steelers with a knocked-down pass in the AFC final, the first ever Living Way Church Superbowl party was secured. Awesome. Great memory.

  2. danielbalc said,

    first and only

  3. Albino Hayford said,

    Who knows?

  4. Save For Retirement said,

    I think #2 should be this year. Where was lunch when he agreed to do it? I will be glad to buy it for him there this year. 🙂

  5. Albino Hayford said,

    I believe it was a little Italian place called “Grazziano’s” on Poway Road.

  6. Aaron said,

    Congrats. I’m not a huge football fan, although I do follow the sport every year because there’s nothing else to do in the baseball off-season, but , , , I’ve become a quasi-Chargers fan because of you and your family. (I’ve been a Saints fan since I was nine–what was the name of the only other Padres-Saints fan in the world, by the way?)

    Good luck against the Steelers.

    Any thoughts about Moorad’s purchase? Anything has to be better than the current situation. (I was very happy to see nothing on politics here on the blog, as I was hoping for for a solid Chargers article, which I got and more!)

  7. danielbalc said,

    Hey Aaron, Thanks for checking in and following the Bolts progress.

    First of all let me apologize for not having any Padres stuff up. I have put together a few thoughts but every time I feel like publishing it seems like something changes. So right now I am just in wait and see mode.

    I have a really difficult time heaping criticism on John Moores. He was a great owner. Probably one of the best owners in sports. In his 12 years as owner of the Padres went to the playoffs 4 times. They were playing meaningful baseball in September in another 2, and they built a beautiful ball park that assures the city of San Diego that the Padres will be here for a long, long time.

    Not many teams outside of Chicago and New York have enjoyed that kind of success over the past 12 years and so for all of that I am quite grateful.

    If it weren’t for this horrible divorce I think I would prefer Moores to continue to be the owner of the Padres. But this divorce is a reality and so is the fact that Moores no longer has the means or the will to be a good owner.

    So here comes Moorad. I think the D-backs recent success is a testament to his operating abilities. I think his southern California ties means positive things for the local community (something else I give tons of credit to Moores for. He and his wife have been extremely generous to the city of San Diego). I think Moorad’s desire to own a team is also a desire to win (something a lot of people think Moores wasn’t interested in doing).

    What I am most pleased with is that it is happening SOOOO fast. And the fact that his name is out there and his offer is being negotiated makes me feel like certain people on the roster are indeed safe. Most importantly meaning Jake Peavy. I get a strong feeling the Moorad is the kind of owner who wants Jake Peavy on his team (heck he traded for Haren when he already had Webb on his team!) This is huge to me. I really think the key to the Padres long term success is the continued maturation of the Jake Peavy, Chris Young tandem. Along with Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Headly and Kevin Kouzmanoff I think you have the nucleus of a championship team.

    Sorry no politics. I will say that I am not at all disappointed with how the election went. I think the better candidate won, but I certainly don’t think our country is going to see any “change” out of this. I think we get a lot more of the same. Change is more than a campaign slogan. What we really need is reform, but that may take a whole generation to really go after it.

    The only other Padres/Saints fan that I can think of is our buddy Ron Skinner. He’s back in Mississippi now so i think his Padres fandom may have dissipated.

  8. danielbalc said,

    One other great thing about Moorad is that the D-backs have the lowest cost to go to a game according to fan index. They have low ticket prices and the most reasonable concessions. I hope Moorad would bring that to SD.

  9. danielbalc said,

    Regarding all of the buzz about the overtime rules.

    I hate this whining that I am seeing from Peter King, Pete Prisco, Bill Simmons, Greg Easterbrook, etc.

    They all complain that the OT rules are “unfair” because the team that wins the coin toss “usually” wins the game. They go on to prove “usually” through some horribly skewed statistics.

    I stumbled upon this page written back in 2004 regarding the sats of overtimes and coin tosses etc.
    http://www.maa.org/mathland/mathtrek_11_08_04.html

    The overall stats from 1974 to 2003 have the percentage at 52 – 48 in favor ofd the team that wins the coin toss winning the game.

    That’s not a HUGE difference.

    However there was a change in 1994 that moved the kickoffs back 5 yards and thus gave the receiving team a greater advantage. I think then that any kind of rule change regarding OT should simply be that in OT the kicking team gets to move up 5 yards on the kickoff. Nothing else should change!

    I don’t have the numbers but I would bet money that the odds of scoring on a first possession either at the start of the game or at the start of half time are less than 50%. Why is OT different? Because of the pressure and the pressure alone.

    The web page linked above shows that in 2003 the team that won the toss went down and won just 38% of the time and in 2004 that number was just 26%!

    That means the losing team in those games touched the ball 62% and 74% of the time! What’s not fair about that?

    The page talks about having a first to 6 rule but that will never happen because of Vegas. I think the best bet is to keep it exactly as it is or move the kickoff up 5 yards.

    If the Colts hadn’t self-destructed they would have certainly got the ball back, but they didn’t because of their own mistakes!
    stop whining national media! Or at least admit that you are whining because you saw your undeserved MVP go down in flames!

  10. Aaron said,

    Sad about Hoffman. We all knew it was going to happen, but it still seems unreal to me. The irony, of course, is that pitch he threw to Tony Gwynn Jr. a few years back as a member of the Brewers was really the beginning downfall of his time with San Diego, and now he goes to that very team.

    Certainly the D’Backs have built the right way in the past two seasons. From afar, I’m just happy to have the Padres back on track without the owner’s financial situation hanging over the team.

    So, with Mr. Skinner gone, I once again become the only Padres-Saints fan. When you throw in the Jays, I would imagine I am untouchable in this regard.

    Clearly you feel otherwise, but my feeling with NFL OT is this: if the team that receives the kick off does not score, than keep OT as it is. However, if the first possession does result in a score, then: the other team gets one final possession to score MORE pts. than the first team. In other words, if one team scores a field goal, the other MUST score a touchdown. If the first team scores a TD with the extra point, the other team MUST score a TD and get a 2-pt. conversion. If the first team scores a TD and risks it by going for the 2-pointer and makes it, then the game is over right there.

  11. danielbalc said,

    With Peyton and Brady out is appears that Prisco has a new favorite QB…
    http://www.sportsline.com/nfl/story/11234981/1
    Philip Rivers!

    crazy. It’s actually a pretty good article.

    Sidetracking back to the Padres.

    It is ironic that hoffman would go to the brew crew. I feel really bad about this whole situation. it’s not right but really just bad timing.

    It’s like Smoltz going to the Red Sox. so odd.

    Which pitcher do you think was more the face of the franchise? I think Hoffman because the Braves have had a lot more stars than the Padres have over the years.

    As for the OT rules. If they did get changed what would happen is that someone would get seriously injured during the extended portion and everyone would freak out about how it should have never happened if it would have just been sudden death.

    Moving the kickoff would move the odds back to 52-48%. A 50-50 chance at a 52-48 advantage seems pretty fair to me (I do like playing black jack).

    And right now my prediction for the MLB season is that yankees will play the cubs in the world series. It’s a government bailout for the sports marketing industry.

  12. Pablo Honey said,

    I say the best way to handle overtime is to do away with it completely, if the teams are tied after 4 quarters they are tied and that’s it. It would be very interesting to see which teams play for ties and which ones play for wins.

  13. Albino Hayford said,

    Play 4 quarters and leave it tied, then let the BCS decide which team advances.

  14. Albino Hayford said,

    That game won’t be one of my favorite Charger memories.

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