If this is the last game the Raiders play in San Diego – and it very well could be – it was about the kind of sendoff you might have expected.
In two weeks, Qualcomm could go dark for good with the Chargers expected to put in for relocation to LA this offseason. Sunday, it went dark early. Sunday it was shrouded in black and silver.
“Raider Nation showed up,” said Jack Del Rio. “It was pretty awesome to see. It had to be at least 60 to 70 percent. I don’t know what the numbers were, but a lot of black shirts out there. A lot of Silver & Black, a lot of pride, and a lot of happy people right now.”
Raiders fans always rival Chargers fans in this stadium. But Del Rio is being generous with his number projections. In all my years covering the team here, I’ve never seen it like this. The fans cheered when the Raiders took the field and booed when the Chargers came out. They were loud when the Chargers were on offense with the smattering of Chargers fans making a desperate attempt to make an impact when the Raiders offense lined up.
During the week, the Chargers were piping in crowd noise to prepare for this game. And they went with a silent count all game because of it, leading Philip Rivers to say plainly “It was a road game.” He went on to say it looked to him just like a game in Oakland.
It’s the perfect storm, when you think about it. For a team that has long had difficulty drumming up a large, passionate fan presence, the current state of things snuffs out any lingering embers. The looming move north sits like an elephant in the stadium, and the Chargers were eliminated from the playoffs Saturday night with the Dolphins beating the Jets.
“It was disappointing but we have to change that culture,” said Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin. “It’s up to this team and this city to change the culture and to win those games for our fans, so, everyone else can fill those seats instead of the other team.”
Willing to fill those empty seats are Raiders fans who have long had a strong southern California presence, and whose team was looking at clinching their first playoff berth in 14 years, and what you have is a crowd that was literally close to 80-20 Raiders fans to Chargers fans.
This wasn’t what the downtrodden Chargers fans would have wanted from a sendoff. They would’ve not wanted one at all because that would mean a new stadium in San Diego instead of shacking up with Stan Kroenke and the Rams in LALA land. As for Raiders fans, this was about as fitting a potential final farewell to this home-away-from-home as you could get.