Before the Chargers boarded a plane Sunday afternoon for Oakland, Head Coach Norv Turner sat in front of his TV and watched game after game in the NFL’s kickoff weekend go down to the wire.
He saw a heavily-favored Baltimore team sit in a tie with Kansas City with two minutes left. He watched as two playoff teams from a year ago – Miami and Atlanta – duke it out in a physical contest, and he looked on as Indianapolis escaped from Week 1 with a 14-12 home win over Jacksonville. Then just before Turner’s team took the field Monday night, he watched New England pull out a last-minute victory over Buffalo.
“What that shows,” Turner said, “it gives you a real feel what this league is about.”
That’s why Turner wasn’t surprised by the hard-fought, close contest Monday night in Oakland, and that’s why he was more than happy to claim a win, regardless of how it came.
“I knew going into the game after watching the Raiders and having played them that it was going to be a very physical game,” Turner said. “I knew they were going to give us their best shot. I’m proud of the way our guys stayed in that game with the adversity that we had. To go into Oakland on Monday night in that environment and come out with a win is exciting to me.”
Turner said that like every other NFL team, his has some areas where they need to improve and “where we need to get better fast,” but he was encouraged by the way his players immediate responded to that challenge. The Chargers returned to Chargers Park around 3 a.m. Tuesday morning, but just a few hours later, many of them were back to work despite it being a day off for the players.
“At about 10, there were probably 15 or 20 guys in, not seeing the athletic trainer or getting rehab, but getting a workout so they’re ready tomorrow,” Turner said. “All those things I’m excited about.”
With the Chargers operating on a short week this week, Turner has adjusted the schedule to give his players a little extra rest. They’ll start three hours later than normal Wednesday before resuming their normal practice schedule on Thursday.
Chargers Chief Operating Officer Jim Steeg said Tuesday that roughly 2,500 tickets remain for Sunday’s home opener against Baltimore. Many of the remaining seats are located in the discounted family section, an area where seats go for as little as $54.
The team must sell all general seats by 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon or the game will not be televised in the Chargers’ television market.
On Tuesday, Turner spoke of how important a packed house is to the team on the field.
“I want to see a full stadium and I want to see our fans there because we need them,” Turner said. “The noise and the atmosphere no question helped Oakland last night and we need that here. We have the greatest home field advantage here from the standpoint of how our players respond to our crowd. That’s why this team has lost very few games at home over the last number of years.”
Over the last three years, the Chargers are 19-5 at home during the regular season.
“He had a heck of a night last night,” Turner said. “He’s our third receiver. I think that’s one of the areas we’re going to be better this year because he’s a year older. He’s kind of taken that spot over. There are going to be some games he catches five or six balls, there are going to be some games where he catches one. The games he catches one, I hope the other two guys each catch seven.”
“People are going to imagine things,” Turner said. “I thought Shawne was physical, I thought he was aggressive. They did some things where they did some takedown blocks and made it difficult. I thought he was very competitive and he’s going to continue to get better.”
Merriman was credited with five tackles in the victory.