In their grandest moment, the San Diego Chargers find themselves the target of ire nationwide.
How dare they.
How dare the Chargers ruin a week’s anticipation leading up to the latest installment of the Colts-Patriots rivalry. At least Peyton Manning and Co. would have given Patriots-hatin’ America a glimmer of hope in the AFC Championship game, one final shot at witnessing the perfect Patriots fall.
Instead, they get the gimpy Chargers, who shocked the Colts yesterday in the final contest at audibly suspicious RCA Dome, 28-24.
At least Colts fans did get the opportunity to boo 14-year-old Anna Grant, the Grantham, NH native who was announced as the NFL's Punt, Pass, and Kick competition winner yesterday in Indianapolis wearing a Patriots jersey. Any other New England animosity will have to wait one more year.
“Man, did the San Diego Chargers make a mess of things yesterday,” writes the Baltimore Sun’s David Steele.
“I don't know how many times I've said it, but the Chargers can't do anything right -- winning when they really didn't have the players to do so -- and now we've got LSU playing Ohio State,” writs the LA Times' TJ Simers.
“Crown them. We know exactly who the Patriots are: the perfect football team,” writes the Chicago Sun-Times’ Jay Mariotti.
You get the point.
From the Patriots fan’s perspective though, things couldn’t have turned out any brighter yesterday. All that stands in the way of the Super Bowl are the banged-up Chargers, who could be without their best three offensive players -- LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers, and Antonio Gates -- on Sunday.
Do you like Tom Brady or Billy Volek? Bill Belichick or Norv Turner?
Despite the nationwide cry over the Colts losing, closer-to-home folks couldn’t be more pleased. A Boston.com survey shows that more than 70 percent of fans are happier to be playing the Chargers in lieu of the Colts in the AFC title game. The Colts, of course, presented the biggest challenge of the season. The Chargers present a plowed freeway to Arizona.
There will be less on-field drama come Sunday, for sure. But leading up to the weekend ought to be a hoot.
For all the challenges that the Colts (now dubbed the NFL’s Atlanta Braves by the Indy Star’s Bob Kravitz) would have provided, the pregame hype probably would have topped out with more of those silly Belichick-Tony Dungy devil-angel getups. Manning and the “good guys” would have said all the right things indeed, not wanting to summon the likes of Anthony Smith for a few days of trash talking. Instead of “disrespect” and asterisks, we might have spent the next six days breaking down matchups and detailed analysis of blocking schemes.
The Chargers? Damn, this team was built on trash-talk.
Isn’t this really more fun? For all the professionalism the Colts would have brought to the preparation proceedings, the Chargers bring the "Lights Out" antithesis. Remember Rivers’ barking at Ellis Hobbs after last year’s playoff game, calling him “the sorriest corner in the league?” Or Tomlinson’s Spygate remarks in which he said the Patriots live by the saying, “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying?”
How about linebacker Shaun Phillips, who after losing in the playoffs to the Pats a year ago, said: “Every time I will play New England it will be a personal grudge. That was very classless. . . . When we went in and beat their head in New England (last season), blew them out (41-17), we did nothing but compliment them and say they were a good team. We would never disrespect a team like that. We have class, and that's how classless individuals are. Shaun Phillips will have a grudge against them the rest of his career.”
Chargers defensive end Igor Olshansky had this to say after the win at Indy yesterday:
"The way we're playing now, nothing can stop us. The way we overcome adversity and everything else. I guarantee you that [Patriots coach Bill] Belichick and everybody else over there are scratching their heads saying, 'Man, we better get ready.'"
Olshansky also went on to tell a local TV station, "Seriously, they're more worried than we are."
That is what we’re talking about.
No way you would have gotten anything like that out of Dungy’s crew. It would have been all about respect and challenges. Enter the Chargers and we’ve got enough dumb rocks to fill a quarry.
The first reaction Rivers had after sealing victory yesterday was to turn and start talking trash to a Colts fan. Before leaving with an injured knee, Rivers looked solid at times vs. the Colts, which is to say he looked little like the Rivers we’re used to seeing. Whether he plays Sunday is of no matter. As long as he runs his mouth at some point between now and then, we’re good.
This is the tradeoff. The Colts would have delivered us a great game, but little in the way of pregame caffeine. The Chargers might not offer the same potential for a Sunday afternoon classic like the Pats-Colts AFC showdowns of the past, but it ought to be a pretty humorous few days leading up to the game.
This is the furthest the San Diego Chargers have been in the playoffs since the 1995 Super Bowl. Junior Seau played for the Bolts then on a Cinderella team that shocked its way past the Dolphins and Steelers to make it to Miami, where they lost to the 49ers, 49-26.
Healthy or not, there won’t be a similar shock come Sunday. No matter how much the Chargers repeatedly tell you how good they are. The cockiest team in the NFL just got a whole lot more firepower. And that can only promise endless entertainment for the remainder of this week.