It was surreal. One look at the palm trees towering behind the north end of StubHub Center confirmed that the Eagles and Chargers were playing in California. But the roars and cheers from legions of green-clad fans told both teams otherwise — and reminded the Chargers that their house is not yet their home.
"We were playing in Philadelphia," Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward said Sunday. "That's what it felt like."
Being scorned and booed in their own stadium didn't feel good to the Chargers, who have bigger problems than hearing jeers but still can't help wonder when they'll get some love in their new city. Their 26-24 loss to the Eagles on Sunday was their third straight home defeat and dropped their record to 0-4, neither of which will help them win what was, from the start, an uphill and maybe impossible battle to win the affections and ticket money of fans in Los Angeles.
Eagles fans on Sunday were more than loud: They were boisterous and persistent, so noisy that Eagles players had to quiet the crowd when they were on offense so they could hear quarterback Carson Wentz's calls. They were louder than Miami Dolphins fans who were here two weeks ago, by a lot of decibels. They repeatedly started their own rhythmic cheers and dramatically drowned out efforts by Chargers fans to dominate the din, creating a lively atmosphere and a louder racket than you'd think a sellout crowd of 25,374 people could produce in a small stadium.
"That's kinda what the word on the street was, that we were going to travel really well for this one," Eagles center Jason Kelce said. "It was awesome. Any time you can get an environment like that on the road it's really good."
Some Chargers players insisted they didn't notice the hostile noise, but they all did. They heard it, and they didn't like it. But they also knew that they could have quieted those Eagles fans by winning. Instead, they produced another incomplete effort in another loss.
"I try not to get too much into it because at the end of the day, we're playing guys. I'm not really looking into the stands. But at the same time, it is kind of disheartening when your home stadium is cheering for the away team. You guys can understand that," Chargers right tackle Joe Barksdale said, gesturing to reporters standing around him.
"At the same time we've got to give the fans a reason to show up. And I'm well aware of that as well. Moving to a new city, a bigger market, there's more to do, they're not going to show up if you're not winning. I'm pretty sure that's something we can to do kind of soothe that issue as well."
That "something" is winning, as coach Anthony Lynn noted when asked how the Chargers could improve the atmosphere at what is, at least technically, their home.
"Play good football. Give the people something to stand up and cheer about. We can do that," Lynn said. "Win a home game. We can do that. I am sure our fans would appreciate that."
Lynn said a few weeks ago that these aren't the same, old Chargers, the ones who would play just well enough to lose, but he pivoted soon afterward to say they are the same old Chargers. It was difficult to dispute that on Sunday after their third loss this season by three points or fewer. They haven't been blown out but they've also never generated the sense that they can create momentum and seize control of a game.
"Tell you the truth, it feels like we are but I know we're definitely not," defensive tackle Corey Liuget said. "We're a way better team. We definitely feed off each other in here and try to play for one another….In the seven years I've been here this is one of the best teams I've been on as far as guys who actually care about each other and the togetherness that we do have. It's just crazy. The ball's just not bouncing our way."
Until it does—or until they make that happen—the Chargers will continue to hear and see more hostile fans than friendly fans at home. Chargers running back Melvin Gordon acknowledged the overwhelming favoritism for the Eagles on Sunday was demoralizing.
"Yeah," he said. "It's sad when you're home and it feels like you're away, but when you're 0-4, what can you expect?"
For the foreseeable future, they can expect more boos like the ones they heard Sunday.