Vision of Playoffs Still Dances in Heads of Hopeful Chargers

TIMES STAFF WRITER

To dream the impossible dream? Or just too many hits to the helmet?

"I firmly believe we can win our last five games and go to the playoffs," Chargers safety Martin Bayless said. "Anything is possible."

Anything?

"We're going to win the Super Bowl," linebacker Junior Seau said.

The 49ers have been forewarned.

And so have the Seahawks, Jets, Broncos, Chiefs and Raiders. They are all that stands in the way of the Chargers (5-6) from making the playoffs and advancing to Tampa for Super Bowl XXV.

"I mean, we play against three teams that we have beaten already," Bayless said. "I could see it if we were playing against teams here on out that we haven't faced, but we've played all these teams. We can win the last five."

First up are the Seahawks (4-6), whom the Chargers humiliated in the Kingdome, 31-14, three weeks ago.

"Seattle is saying the same things we're saying," cornerback Gill Byrd said. "They believe they're not out of it, and they can still make amends for the season by going out and winning the rest of the way.

"The way we beat them in Seattle is not going to sit well with them. And Coach Chuck Knox is going to have them ready to play. It's a nationally televised game, and they're going to be fired up."

The Seahawks rebounded from their defeat to the Chargers to upset the Chiefs, 17-16, in Kansas City. However, they were left in retreat a week ago in a 24-21 loss to Minnesota in the Kingdome.

"This is all playoffs from here on out," Chargers Coach Dan Henning said. "You can't afford to take any lost steps backward. We have to come out swinging, and we can't get ourselves into a position where we give up 10 points before we hand the ball off to Marion Butts. That's for sure."

A week ago, the Chargers went down 10-0 to the Chiefs early in the first quarter and never recovered. They went on to lose, 27-10, to trail Houston (5-5) and Pittsburgh (5-5) for the third and final wild card playoff berth in the AFC.

"We have possibilities if we win to stay in what's called the hunt," Henning said. "If we continue to win we will be there. That's our commission right now. In our situation, there are teams with five wins who have the chance to be there, but we have six losses, so we can't afford any more."

The Chargers ended a 10-year skid in Seattle earlier this season scoring a pair of third-quarter touchdowns in a span of 32 seconds to pad a 17-7 lead.

Rookie Nate Lewis returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown, and on Seattle's next offensive play, Leslie O'Neal sacked quarterback Dave Krieg and forced a fumble that was recovered by teammate Les Miller in the end zone.

The Chargers' defense limited Seattle to 194 yards, forced three turnovers and collected four sacks.

"When we went into that game it seemed like everything was going in Seattle's favor," Byrd said. "What seems like a sure win for one team ends up a loss because the other team comes in more prepared or their level of play is a little higher.

"The score says we beat Seattle 31-14, but it was 17-7 and that was with a quarter to play. We got 14 points on two big plays, but you take those away and who knows. I don't know how you can look at this game and not think that it's going to be a close ballgame."

The nation--minus a blacked out San Diego--will be viewing this game on ESPN tonight.

"It makes a difference to everybody because everybody you know is watching you," Chargers defensive end Burt Grossman said, "but it's not like you're on national TV and the other team is on regional TV. You hear what I'm saying: Both teams have that incentive."

The Chargers have an 11-7 record in night games played in San Diego, including a 14-12 victory over the Los Angeles Raiders on ESPN last season.

"I'd like to think no one needs any extra incentive to go out and win a football game that can help put you in the playoffs," quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver said. "Besides, TV hasn't reached Boyd (Texas) yet--cable TV, anyway."

Tolliver, who is coming off a pulled groin muscle and bruised knee and elbow, completed 11 of 24 passes against Seattle for 145 yards, with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Ronnie Harmon, and a 45-yard touchdown strike to Quinn Early.

In his last six starts, Tolliver has thrown five touchdown passes and two interceptions and the Chargers have gone 4-2. But it hasn't been enough to silence many of the booing hometown fans.

"Hey, apparently the verdict is going to be out on quarterbacks in this league until they win a Super Bowl," Tolliver said. "Because in Denver the verdict is still out on John Elway for reasons I don't understand. The fans are still down on him when he doesn't produce. So that's just the way it is: First incomplete pass, and I'll get booed."

With Tolliver at quarterback, the Chargers, however, have defeated their next two opponents--the Seahawks and Jets--by a combined score of 70-17. Two more victories over these two teams, and the Chargers will be 7-6 with a bye week to prepare them for the stretch drive.

"I don't think it's too far-fetched to say we can win five games in a row," defensive tackle Lee Williams said. "I think I'm of sound mind and body when I make a statement like that."

Keep in mind that Williams' idea of a delectable Thanksgiving Day dinner was soft-shell turtle. . . .

"I know some people might think us crazy, but as long as you got a chance, that's all you can ask for," Bayless said. "God has worked greater miracles."

TODAY'S ROSTERS: CHARGERS VS. SEATTLE CHARGERS

No. Name Pos. 3 John Carney K 10 John Kidd P 11 Billy Joe Tolliver QB 13 Mark Vlasic QB 20 Darrin Nelson RB 22 Gill Byrd CB 23 Anthony Shelton RB 24 Lester Lyles SS 25 Vencie Glenn FS 27 Donald Frank CB 28 Donnie Elder CB 30 Sam Seale CB 31 Craig McEwen HB 33 Ronnie Harmon RB 34 Steve Hendrickson LB-RB 35 Marion Butts RB 36 Joe Mickles RB 37 Terry Orr HB 44 Martin Bayless SS 50 Gary Plummer LB 51 Cedric Figaro LB 53 Courtney Hall C 54 Billy Ray Smith LB 55 Junior Seau LB 57 Henry Rolling LB 59 Antonio Goss LB 61 Eric Floyd T 63 Frank Cornish C-G 64 Mark Rodenhauser C 65 David Richards G-T 67 Leo Goeas T 69 Les Miller NT 70 Mike Zandofsky G 76 Broderick Thompson G-T 78 Joel Patten T 79 Tony Savage NT 81 Nate Lewis WR 83 Anthony Miller WR 84 Walter Wilson WR 87 Quinn Early WR 88 Arthur Cox TE 89 Derrick Walker TE 91 Leslie O'Neal DE 92 Burt Grossman DE 97 George Hinkle DE 98 Gerald Robinson DE 99 Lee Williams DE

SEATTLE

No. Name Pos. 3 Rick Donnelly P 9 Norm Johnson K 11 Kelly Stouffer QB 15 Jeff Kemp QB 17 Dave Krieg QB 22 Nesby Glasgow S 23 Thom Kaumeyer S 24 Melvin Jenkins CB 25 Robert Blackmon S 26 James Jefferson CB 27 Patrick Hunter CB 29 Dwayne Harper CB 30 James Jones FB 31 Vann McElroy S 32 John L. Williams FB 33 Derek Loville RB 41 Eugene Robinson S 42 Chris Warren RB 44 Derrick Fenner RB 50 Dave Ahrens LB 52 Ricky Andrews LB 54 Grant Feasel C 56 Joe Tofflemire C 57 Tony Woods DE 59 Joe Cain LB 63 Ronnie Lee T 64 Darrick Brilz G 65 Edwin Bailey G 66 Andy Heck T 70 Ron Mattes T 71 Bryan Millard G 72 Joe Nash DT 77 Jeff Bryan DT 78 Eric Hayes DT 79 Jacob Green DE 81 Tommy Kane WR 82 Paul Skansi WR 83 Trey Junkin TE 84 Louis Clark WR 85 Ron Heller TE 86 Travis McNeal TE 88 Jeff Chadwick WR 89 Brian Blades WR 92 Davis Wyman LB 96 Cortez Kennedy DT 97 Rufus Porter LB 99 Donald Miller LB

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