Writing about the top Chargers wins of all time is a TALL order as there have been so many triumphs throughout Chargers history. But I dug deep and looked at stats, and a lot of film, and came up with my top four Chargers wins.
All-Time Chargers Wins
Week 1: Chargers @ Oakland Raiders, September 14, 2009
Final Score: Chargers 24, Raiders 20
A LOT happened during this classic Chargers-Raiders matchup to kick off the 2009 season, and most of it wasn’t in the Chargers favor. LaDainian Tomlinson, according to Pro Football Reference, only had 55 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown during the game, which was very much out of character for the eventual hall-of-fame running back. In the first quarter, he also had a fumble and the Raiders recovered it.
Philip Rivers threw an interception during the third quarter, where the ball popped off tight end Antonio Gates’ hand and was recovered by safety Michael Huff. Rivers was also sacked several times due to a lack of protection stemming from offensive line injuries.
Defensively, the Chargers couldn’t get much going either. There were multiple big holes in several defensive plays where the Raiders snuck through, and running back Darren McFadden took advantage of the open space and had 68 total rushing yards.
The defense did pick up later and McFadden fumbled in the second quarter, and the Chargers recovered it. There was also a sack on JaMarcus Russell and eventually an interception with a few seconds left in the game to really stop a Raiders comeback.
Both teams were gridlocked during the third quarter, but ultimately the Chargers pulled this game off. Running back Darren Sproles gave the Chargers great field position, twice, with long kickoff returns. He also had a beautiful touchdown up the middle, toward the end of the fourth quarter.
The field goal after that and the last-minute interception sealed their win. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson also had a touchdown in the fourth, leading to a back-and-forth battle with the Chargers having a narrow lead, then the Raiders, then lastly the Chargers. This game certainly started the season off on a nerve-racking but positive note.
Week 6: Chargers @ 49ers, October 15, 2006
Final Score: Chargers 48, 49ers 19
This matchup was all about Tomlinson and Rivers, who were the heroes of the game. Tomlinson had a total of four rushing touchdowns with 71 rushing yards. He had a beautiful stiff arm during the first quarter, then a quick run-in for a touchdown soon after.
During the second quarter, he ran in for a touchdown, untouched, then jumped over a pile of players for another later on. By the start of the third, the score was 35 to 19 in favor of the Chargers. Tomlinson got his fourth touchdown in the fourth. He couldn’t be stopped and it was magic.
Rivers had quick throws throughout. He had a dart to wide receiver Eric Parker during the second quarter, and a deep shot to wide receiver Vincent Jackson for 33 yards soon after, who ran it in for a touchdown. Rivers ultimately had 334 passing yards on the day and two passing touchdowns.
For some honorable mentions, Gates had a breakaway touchdown for 57 yards up the sideline in the first quarter. And in terms of defense, shoutout to Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips, who knocked the ball up in the air during the second quarter and defensive lineman Luis Castillo came down with it for a Chargers possession.
As far as the 49ers go, running back Frank Gore had a nice long run at the end of the first quarter. Alex Smith, during the second, got out of the pocket and threw to fullback Moran Norris for a touchdown. But mostly the 49ers struggled. It was a nice, clear win for the Chargers and when you have unstoppable players on your team, it shows.
Division Round: Dolphins @ San Diego, January 8, 1995
Final Score: Chargers 22, Dolphins 21
This Chargers vs Miami matchup was very entertaining, similar to the one from this past season. It had everything: batted passes, strange occurrences, and great runs from Chargers running backs. Stan Humphries struggled to get the passing game going, so the Chargers deferred to the run game.
Natrone Means had 139 rushing yards on the day and one rushing touchdown. And that touchdown happened in the third quarter when there were so many players in his way, but he kept barreling through and dove into the endzone.
Granted, the touchdown was questionable, as it did look like he was out, but the game kept moving, and after a field goal, the score was 21 to 15 in favor of Miami. Eric Bieniemy was another track star with 33 total rushing yards.
There were a few batted passes. Linebacker Junior Seau batted one of Dan Marino’s passes during the second quarter and attempted to catch it one-handed and missed. Defensive lineman Chris Mims batted the ball just as Marino was throwing during Miami’s first drive of the game. And then in the fourth, linebacker Bryan Cox batted a pass from Humphries, and luckily wide receiver Tony Martin was still able to grab it.
And then there were some strange occurrences.
There was the safety, where running back Bernie Parmalee was tackled in Miami’s endzone by defensive lineman Reuben Davis, making the score at that time in the third 21 to 8, in favor of Miami. The Means touchdown followed during the Chargers next possession.
In the fourth quarter, tight end Keith Jackson got the ball, and as he was tackled, it came out of his hands and went forward. The way the ball flew looked like he was trying to get it to a receiver before going down. The Chargers dived on it once it hit the ground, so it should have been a fumble.
But then it was ruled an illegal forward pass, and since the ball hit the ground, it became an incomplete pass. Originally it was said that Miami should only get a five-yard penalty, but upon review, they ultimately lost a down. Understandably, the boos from Chargers fans were loud as the score was 21 to 15, in favor of Miami.
Though Humphries wasn’t having the best day, he still made some great completions, in particular one in the fourth to wide receiver Mark Seay, who was wide open and ran it in for a touchdown. With a field goal, the score was 22-21, with the Chargers on top and 35 seconds left. Luckily Miami missed a 48-yard field goal with six seconds on the clock. The snap was too high, the timing was off, and the Chargers squeaked by with a victory.
AFC Western Division Championship: Broncos @ San Diego, December 17, 1979
Final Score: Chargers 17, Broncos 7
This Chargers game was a tale of turnovers. It also showcased some great quarterback play by Dan Fouts. He made a deep throw to wide receiver Charlie Joiner for a touchdown and with that, he broke the single-season passing record, taking the title from Joe Namath in ‘67. He ended the season with 4,082 passing yards. Fouts also had so much time to throw, really showing the Broncos lack of aggression.
He was also part of the interception fiasco in the fourth quarter. In the fourth, Broncos quarterback Craig Morton first had a throw picked off by Chargers linebacker Dan Goode. Fouts threw it deep and it was intercepted by safety Steve Fooley. Morton then had a deep throw and Williams came in for the interception with a jump catch. Then lastly Morton did a bootleg out right and threw, and Chargers safety Mike Fuller picked it off. The Chargers eventually got a field goal and won 17-7. It was a sad day for Broncos fans but a great day for the Chargers.