SAN DIEGO -- Since the team’s first season there in 1967, Qualcomm Stadium served as the home of the San Diego Chargers.
It’s been the scene of memorable wins and heartbreaking losses. But mostly Qualcomm has been a place where Chargers fans comfortably gathered in the Southern California sun to tailgate in the parking lot, reminiscence and share in their love of NFL football.
“It was as good as any place in the league,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “And we had a hand in it by winning. We all had a hand in what makes it special there. It was awesome in those years where we were winning a bunch of football games.”
With owner Dean Spanos eyeing a move north to Los Angeles, the Chargers have likely played their last game at Qualcomm Stadium, which opened in 1967 as San Diego Stadium and was known as Jack Murphy Stadium from 1981 to 1997.
With that in mind, we are taking a look at its top moments.
No. 5: The Holy Roller is a play that led to a change in NFL rules and garnered national attention as a controversial call in 1978. With the Chargers facing the AFC West rival Oakland Raiders and ahead 20-14 with 10 seconds left, quarterback Ken Stabler rolled out to pass. Stabler was nearly sacked by San Diego linebacker Woodrow Lowe, but somehow managed to flip the ball forward underhand. In today’s game, Stabler’s flip would have been ruled an incomplete pass. But officials on the field ruled Stabler fumbled. Raiders fullback Pete Banaszak intentionally fumbled the ball forward and tight end Dave Casper kicked the ball while trying to pick it up, ultimately falling on it for a touchdown to give Oakland an improbable, 21-20 victory over the Chargers. “In typical Raider fashion, if you can’t beat somebody the right way, you cheat,” said former San Diego linebacker Jim Laslavic.
No. 4: There’s been a lot of heartbreak among Chargers fans, but the Marlon McCree interception and lost fumble is the one play most lament when asked about the on-the-field failings of this franchise. The Chargers finished the 2006 season with a league-best 14-2 record, which included a 10-game win streak. In the AFC divisional game, the Chargers led 21-13 and had the Patriots all but stopped in their own territory late. Tom Brady threw a pass intended for Troy Brown, but McCree intercepted it. Instead of going down, McCree ran with the ball and was stripped by Brown, with New England receiver Reche Caldwell recovering the ball. The Patriots scored five plays later on a 4-yard TD pass from Brady to Caldwell, and a Kevin Faulk run for a two-point conversion tied the game. After a San Diego punt, the Patriots moved into field-goal position and won the game 24-21 on a Stephen Gostkowski 31-yard field goal with 1:01 left. The victory propelled the Patriots to Indianapolis for the AFC Championship Game, though Peyton Manning's Colts stopped New England and went on to win the Super Bowl.
No. 3: Matched up against Manning and the Colts in a 2008 AFC wild-card game, San Diego running back Darren Sproles ran 22 yards for the winning score in overtime to lift the Chargers over the Colts 23-17. The Chargers snuck into the playoffs at 8-8, then eliminated the streaking Colts and the NFL MVP in Manning. Rivers even remembered the play -- I left slot 30-Iso: “Probably the Colts playoff game is the most awesome that I think that stadium has ever felt,” Rivers said. “That feeling there when he scored and that atmosphere was about as awesome as it gets.”
No. 2: LaDainian Tomlinson breaking the single-season touchdown record previously held by Shaun Alexander on Dec. 10, 2006, in a 48-20 win over the Broncos, is a go-to memory for many younger Chargers fans for obvious reasons. “It meant a lot,” tight end Antonio Gates said. “When you see all of us gathering together to pick him up, it was a statement about what we stood for. At that particular time, the running game was the cornerstone for what we did offensively.” Tomlinson rushed for 103 yards and three touchdowns that day, and finished with 31 total touchdowns on the season, a record that still stands.
No. 1: Leading 17-13 with a minute left and the Pittsburgh Steelers at San Diego's 3-yard line at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Chargers linebacker Dennis Gibson batted down a fourth-down pass by Neil O'Donnell intended for running back Barry Foster, sealing the franchise's first trip to the Super Bowl with a victory in the AFC Championship Game after the 1994 season. That win created the most memorable moment at the stadium for Chargers fans, when an estimated crowd of 68,000 welcomed the Chargers back to San Diego. Many more claimed to have been in attendance that day to celebrate. Two weeks later, they were routed by the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl and haven’t been back since.