If the Chargers win the Super Bowl, will there be a parade for them?
A question once asked rhetorically to joke about the team’s low profile now has to be taken with a modicum of seriousness by city leaders.
The Chargers are a 10-win team in the aftermath of a 26-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at StubHub Center. Short of a major catastrophe, they will be playing postseason football.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, you’re welcome for the heads up.
Of course, there’s no point in paying for a parade no one will attend, which is why the five-time Major League Soccer champion Galaxy have never waved to crowds along Figueroa Street from the tops of buses.
And as well as the Chargers have played, as many close games as they have won this season, they remain afterthoughts in this market, which they share with the Rams and LeBron James.
But say the Rams lose their postseason opener. And say the Chargers win dramatic game after dramatic game to reach the Super Bowl. Could Los Angeles catch Chargers fever?
Garcetti has to at least consider the possibility.
“It’s gradual, we understand that,” quarterback Philip Rivers said.
In almost any other city — actually, let’s make that any other city, period — the Chargers already would be a huge deal. They have the second-best record in the AFC behind the Kansas City Chiefs, who are 11-2. No other team in the conference has 10 wins.
They also have played in their share of dramatic games. Five were determined in the last two minutes. They won four of them, including the game Sunday, when defensive tackle Darius Philon sacked Jeff Driskel on a two-point conversion attempt to prevent the Bengals from leveling the score with a minute, 50 seconds remaining.
“This is a close-game league,” Rivers said.
He mentioned several of the close games that were played around the league on the same day.
“When you don’t win close games — and you’re not going to win all of them — but when you lose them often, you go 5-11 and 4-12,” Rivers said. “When you win a bunch of close games, you find yourself where we are now, which is in the thick of it.”
In Rivers’ view, the fact they were able to triumph at all Sunday was further testament of the team’s character.
“If there was ever the term ‘trap game,’ to be applied, it was probably this one,” Rivers said.
The Chargers were only a week removed from winning a road game in Pittsburgh on a last-second field goal, with Rivers saying he still was being congratulated for that victory as recently as Friday. They also had to fight the temptation of looking ahead, as they will be taking on the division-leading Chiefs in Kansas City on Thursday.
Their confidence is high.
“If I was anybody else, I wouldn’t want to play us right now,” defensive lineman Damion Square said. Why’s that? “Because we’re really good, man. We’re poised and we believe we’re going to win the game.”
Improved health could lead to further improvement.
Defensive end Joey Bosa, who was sidelined for the first nine games with a foot injury, recorded a sack in the win over the Bengals. The sack was his fourth in the last three weeks.
The game against the Chiefs could mark the return of running back Melvin Gordon, who has missed the last two games with a sprained knee.
The flip side of that is that run stopper Denzel Perryman is finished for the season. The effects of that were visible Sunday, when the Chargers gave up 144 yards rushing, their fourth-highest total of the season.
And some people are noticing all of it.
Counting Sunday, their last two home games actually have felt like home games, with their fans clearly outnumbering the supporters of the opposition. This was likely a function of them playing the Bengals and Arizona Cardinals, who don’t have followings in Los Angeles that compare to the likes of the Raiders and Broncos. But, hey, it was better than the alternative.
In that regard, the Bengals’ final scoring drive was memorable.
Coming out of the two-minute warning, the visitors had a third-and-one at the Chargers’ two-yard line. From linebacker Jatavis Brown to defensive back Derwin James, the Chargers on the field waved their arms to encourage their fans to scream.
“We had a little noise to it there when they were driving late in the game down in that end zone,” Rivers said.