This is a great time of year to be thankful for what we have, where we have been, and what the future holds. Although the Chargers have lost their way a bit in recent years, the month of December used to hold such incredible promise! This advent calendar is an attempt to hearken back to these days of December joy. Each day will bring a new advent from the Bolts’ history that makes it wonderful to be a Chargers fan.
Dec. 19: 09.29.02
This was a day to remember if you were a Chargers fan. If you were not, it’s a good day to look back on if you are not a fan of the New England Patriots. This was, if not the breakout game for LaDainian Tomlinson, certainly a premier game in his sterling career.
Let’s set the table first, shall we?
The Patriots had just won the Superbowl and were running on a 12-game winning streak, stretching well into 2001. They were the cream of the league, and the Chargers were third on the totem pole compared to the Raiders and the Broncos, both powerhouses in their own right. The Patriots had dominated the first three games of the season, and the Chargers had also looked very good through their first quarter. This was going to be a statement game, and it certainly was just that.
Tomlinson tied the team rushing record with 217 yards and scored on runs of 58 and 37 yards as the Chargers defeated the defending Super Bowl champions 21-14 in this battle of unbeaten teams. This was LT’s first 200-yard game, and he finally began to get the national recognition that his career would deserve.
Playing in what Junior Seau called their biggest game in three years, the Chargers improved to 4-0 for the first time their Super Bowl season of 1994.
"We shook up the world, baby,'' said Tomlinson, who had the most yards rushing in the NFL this season.
Qualcomm was a sold-out crowd on that Sunday, and the team knew that this was a sign that things were finally on the way up. After so long, the Chargers might finally be able to enjoy the postseason once again.
"It doesn't mean anything unless we make the postseason,'' said Seau, who hasn't been to the playoffs since 1995. "We're growing, and we hope to build on it.''
...As things would have it, the Chargers would end the season at 8-8 and miss the playoffs. They lost 6 of their second-half games, but the signs were there: Teams could no longer just circle the Chargers as a win on their calendars.
Beyond LT’s record rushing numbers that day, and beyond the cruel hope of a 4-0 start that season, this was an important day in the history of getting monkeys off of the team’s back. 09.29.02 was the date that the Chargers finally beat the Patriots for their first time in 11 games. This streak dated back to 1973.
-Jason “Back When a Catch Was a Catch...Right?” Michaels