It isn't difficult to figure out that Joe Phillips is employed by the San Diego Chargers. When you stand 6 feet 5, weigh 315 pounds and wear a Charger sweatshirt while running errands, you stand out.
After fans learn that Phillips plays nose tackle for the Chargers, the first question usually asked is: Why can't the Chargers win a game?
"You meet people on the street and they say, 'you guys stink,' " Phillips said. "Every day you open the paper and people are questioning the team and people are calling into the talk shows.
"Fans in Southern California are ruthless. They've turned on the Raiders before, and they've turned on us many times."
Phillips and the Chargers got a reprieve from their critics by ending the NFL's longest losing streak at eight games with a 21-13 victory over the Raiders Sunday at the Coliseum.
"Any time you lose that many games it's going to knock you down," Phillips said. "But we came in here and beat that losing streak. One game doesn't make a season, but I'm glad the first win finally came. We've just got to build on it."
Running back Marion Butts, who scored two touchdowns, agreed.
"This win gives us a great lift," Butts said. "We were playing great ball before this, but we were getting the short end of the stick. Right now we got the better end and it feels great."
A loud cheer erupted from the Charger locker room after they won for the first time this season.
Other than 23-17 victory over the Raiders during the NFL players strike in 1987, it marked the first time San Diego had won at the Coliseum since beating the Rams, 40-16, in 1979.
"It's nice to get the first win," Charger Coach Dan Henning said. "When you go 0-5, it's sweet to get a victory. We beat a good football team in L.A."
Henning also has been under a lot of heat from the San Diego media and fans who are dissatisfied with his 13-25 record.
"I don't think any of the pressure (on Henning) came from the players or management," linebacker Henry Rolling said. "The players believed in what he was doing, and we still believe in what he's doing."
Rolling, who set up the Chargers' final touchdown with a 53-yard fumble recovery and intercepted a pass to abort a Raider drive, said the Chargers maintained their confidence despite their 0-5 start.
In addition to ending the losing streak, the Chargers also snapped a streak of failures in close games. It was the fifth time in 22 games that they had won a game that was decided by seven points or less.
It was also the first victory for John Friesz in seven starts as an NFL quarterback.
"When a team wins the quarterback and the coach get a lot of the credit, and when they lose they get the blame," Friesz said. "So it feels good for me to get that off my back. I've never been in a situation where it was so hard to win. I've always been a successful quarterback, so it feels good to win."
After failing to score on their first three drives, the Chargers capitalized by driving 48 yards to a touchdown to take a 7-3 lead on Rod Bernstine's four-yard touchdown run with 10:39 remaining in the first half.
After the Raiders took a 10-7 lead when quarterback Jay Schroeder hit tight end Ethan Horton with an 11-yard touchdown pass, the Chargers closed out the first half with a 68-yard, 15-play touchdown drive that ate up 7 minutes and 57 seconds.
Faced with a fourth-and-goal at the Raiders' one, the Chargers disdained a field goal and went for a touchdown. And Henning's gamble paid off when Butts scored with two seconds left in the half to give the Chargers a 14-10 lead.
Friesz completed four of six passes for 61 yards in the drive, including a 25-yard pass play to Ronnie Harmon. The Chargers seemed to confuse the Raiders by using four wide receivers.
"We opened things up this week by putting in four wide receivers," Friesz said. "That really spread out the Raider defense and opened up some draws and counters. And when they tried to take that away we were able to get the passing game going."