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Chargers

Chargers face Lions embracing the pressure of defending their NFL road warrior title

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler celebrates with teammates.
Will the Chargers be celebrating a victory on the road against the Detroit Lions on Sunday after last week’s overtime win against the Indianapolis Colts?
(Getty Images)

They were four simple letters he came up with to define a movement that was much more involved.

Along the way, as his team gained more and more momentum, so did those letters, an acronym becoming an identity.

Today, various Chargers players can be seen walking around the locker room carrying notebooks decorated with “ASAP.”

“We were together,” defensive end Melvin Ingram said. “We were winning. It doesn’t matter what you say. When you’re winning that [stuff] gonna become big.”

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Ingram’s “stuff” did indeed blow up in 2018, “Any Squad Any Place” the essence of a bunch that won its first nine games played outside Southern California.

The Chargers quite famously reside in a market — and a stadium — cluttered with fans of teams other than the Chargers.

So perhaps it only makes sense that this group would be so successful when venturing into unwelcoming environments.

This weekend, the Chargers travel here to visit Ford Field, their first regular-season trip of 2019, to see if they can recapture the NFL’s most impressive road-field advantage.

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“We’re pulling up wherever,” Ingram said. “We want pressure. We want smoke. We want it all. All that. We’re going to make everybody else’s home stadium our home stadium.”

The Chargers have won nine of their last 11 regular-season games on the road. Entering the season, only the Rams could match that mark.

Going back to beating Dallas on Thanksgiving Day of 2017, the Chargers are 11-2 — including the playoffs — in games played anywhere other than L.A.

“We don’t care what the situation is, who we’re going against, what the crowd is like,” tight end Virgil Green said. “We live for those moments. We really believe that. That’s the swag we take into games.”

Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram sacks Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram sacks Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett during Los Angeles’ season-opening win.
(Getty Images)

Ingram couldn’t recall the exact moment when he came up with “ASAP.” The motto began to take root as the Chargers were ripping the Browns in Cleveland, beating the Tennessee Titans in London and holding off the Seahawks in Seattle.

Later in the season, Ingram appeared on the NFL Network and announced that the Chargers, if necessary, would be willing to travel to outer space to play a game.

Working with the team’s social media crew, he recorded videos on the field immediately after road wins pushing the “ASAP” theme. Now, the Chargers are using the letters in their overall marketing of the 2019 season.

“That’s the reason I love Melvin,” offensive tackle Sam Tevi said. “He’s built different. He came up with a great one. I don’t think there are too many teams that can say that. Having that mentality is fun.”

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But having that mentality now means nothing, at least until the 2019 Chargers prove that they too can feast on away cooking.

Momentum in football sometimes teeters on something as innocuous as an offsides penalty. Swagger, no matter how much its earned, can grow stale over an offseason.

“Last year was last year,” linebacker Denzel Perryman said. “We’ve got some new faces in here. We can’t dwell on last year, what we did or what we said. This is a whole new ballgame now.”

The Chargers will be playing in Detroit for only the second time since 2003. The most recent visit — Christmas Eve, 2011 — was a disaster, a 38-10 loss that was over by halftime.

On Sunday, the Chargers will face more challenges than just the Lions as they continue to have their depth stretched. Already down three Pro Bowl players, they lost two more starters, tight end Hunter Henry and cornerback Michael Davis, to injuries in their opener.

Wide receiver Mike Williams has a sore knee that forced him to miss two practices and kicker Michael Badgley continues to deal with a groin problem that kept him out of Week 1.

“I give the guys in the locker room a lot of credit,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “No complaining, no excuses. Just go get it done.”

The Chargers overcame plenty of personnel losses in 2018, including for various stretches Henry, running back Melvin Gordon and defensive end Joey Bosa.

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Before Week 2 kicks off, they are faced with the prospect of starting four players who entered the NFL as undrafted rookies. Still, they are slight favorites over a Detroit team that blew an 18-point fourth-quarter lead in its opener at Arizona, a game that eventually ended in a 27-27 tie.

“We’re just gritty,” Tevi said. “We love each other. We love going out there competing no matter where the game is. Our head coach is gritty. We’re all gritty.”

And now they’re about to find out if their 2018 identity means anything in 2019. The staying power of “ASAP” will be known ASAP.

“I didn’t come up with that so people would say, ‘Oh, yeah, this sounds pretty good,’ ” Ingram said. “I came up with it because this is what it is. We balling. We about whatever.”


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