It is not news that Raiders fans showed up in droves to Qualcomm Sunday. They always make the trip out here and rival the Chargers fans for attendance supremacy. But this Sunday felt different. This Sunday felt like a statement was being made. Perhaps by both the Chargers fans and the Raiders fans.
First of all, there was little question in my mind that the stadium was close to 60-40 in favor of Raiders fans. The stands directly behind the Raiders bench was almost completely covered in black. And the rest of the stadium was either dominated by black and white Raiders jerseys with blue and white Chargers jerseys speckling or it was empty seats.
It was those empty seats that were the message being sent by the Chargers fans whose team has gone from looking to leave to officially stating they will be putting in a bid to head to Los Angeles to either share a stadium with these same Raiders in Carson or to share one with the Rams in Inglewood. It's the same statement the Rams have been getting lately in St Louis from their disenfranchised fan base. And yet for the Raiders it doesn't seem to matter where in California they are, the fans are show up to support them.
Many of the Raiders fans here traveled from Northern California, but with the strong Raiders fan following here in Southern California, the stadium is easily shrouded in black and silver on game day.
Those SoCal fans are sending the message to the Raiders that should they too head to Los Angeles next year, they have plenty of support waiting for them. That message was received loud and clear by Raiders owner Mark Davis.
"The Raiders Nation is strong today," Davis told reporters before the game.
"There is no question in our mind that we're one of the teams that could make it go in L.A. There is a Raiders Nation there. We'd kick ass."
During the game, the Raiders presence was evident. When normally you'd expect the 'home' crowd to be quiet for the offense, the crowd was loud. And when the Qualcomm jumbotron called for the crowd to "get loud", there wasn't nearly the same energy. This was throughout the game, too. It wasn't just a product of the Raiders taking a big lead by halftime.
"It was pretty strong." said Jack Del Rio after the game. "Pretty strong support here on the road. I had heard a few people say that that was possible throughout the week. I hadn't quite experienced that but it was great to have all of those fans out there supporting us today."
Derek Carr echoed that, saying "It definitely felt like a home game and you have to give credit to our fans."
While the Chargers players each deflected any thoughts that the crowd affected their morale or performance, it can't feel good even having to answer such questions. Hard to imagine a move to LA would change any of that. Whether it's sharing a stadium with the Raiders or merely sharing Southern California fan allegiance with them.