Defensive Tackle Justin Ellis
Everyone heard the boos pregame.
They were loud and crisp – as boos tend to be – but not all that surprising considering the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers were about to kick off the 114th chapter of their 56-year rivalry Sunday afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium.
What was surprising though, was that the boos cascading down through the San Diego afternoon were directed at the hometown Chargers, not the Silver and Black.
Asked about the situation in the stadium, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers laid it out matter-of-factly.
"It was a road game," said Rivers.
From pregame introductions, all the way until Derek Carr took three kneel downs to ice the Raiders 11th win of the regular season, it was evident that that the Week 15 matchup was in essence a home game for the Silver and Black.
Head Coach Jack Del Rio couldn't put a number on what percentage of Sunday's crowd was pro-Raiders, but standing on the sidelines, he knew that a majority of the folks in attendance were cheering for the "away" team.
"Raider Nation showed up," Del Rio said postgame. "It was pretty awesome to see. It had to be at least 60 to 70 percent. I don't know what the numbers were, but a lot of black shirts out there. A lot of Silver and Black, a lot of pride, and a lot of happy people right now."
Raider Nation always travels well – particularly to San Diego – but just seeing and hearing them Sunday afternoon, it was hard not to be impressed.
At one point, with the Chargers backed up in front of their own end zone, the Raiders defense asked the crowd for noise, and the fans at Qualcomm Stadium responded, which is something you hardly – if ever – see on the road.
"They were hyped, man," safety Nate Allen said. "It was pretty cool. We kind of had a feeling; we had heard it might be like that coming in. We have a great fan base, and obviously they travel real well, and it's awesome. Anytime you can do that, that definitely gives your defense a boost, and your entire team."
Del Rio was asked about the impact of the fans once again during his Monday press conference, and once again, he reaffirmed that Sunday's invasion of Qualcomm Stadium by Raider Nation was something he had never seen in his 30-plus seasons in the NFL.
"Not seen it like that, no," Del Rio said when asked about the fan situation during Sunday's game. "I think our fans travel as well as any team out there. There are some that travel well, but that was pretty impressive by the Raider Nation."
As a rookie, running back DeAndré Washington admittedly has decades less of NFL experience than his head coach, but regardless, he was impressed by the way Raider Nation took over Qualcomm Stadium.
"We had more fans out there today than they did, so you could definitely feel the energy and the passion of Raider Nation," Washington said. "Thanks to the Raider Nation for coming out and showing full support."
Sixty, 70, 80, percent; whatever the number was, there was no mistaking that a majority of the 75,191 assembled fans at Qualcomm Stadium left with big smiles after their Oakland Raiders beat the Chargers, officially returning to the postseason for the first time since 2002.