This was like the old days.
Except for the empty seats and lack of atmosphere.
The final score at StubHub Center was 30-13 with enough big plays during the romp that Pacific Beach would have heard the roars if this game was played where it should have been.
Instead, the kids at neighboring Cal State Dominguez Hills were able to study unfettered for their upcoming finals.
The Redskins (5-8) are dreadful enough that their West Coast faithful couldn’t be inspired to pay a couple hundred bucks to come out and see them in the NFL’s most intimate setting. (To be fair, the Redskins were just in L.A. two months ago to play the Rams.)
Where early games in this temporary home of the Chargers were farcical in the number of and noise created by opposing fans, Sunday was illustrative of what happens when the visitors’ fans don’t show up in such large number.
Basically, nothing happens.
The experience is at times like watching football with a bunch of people simultaneously playing the “quiet game.”
It’s not just about the size of the venue, either. Of course, 68,000 are going to be louder than 25,000. It’s the quiet. A small crowd can still be into a game and make its presence felt.
Tyrell Williams’ 75-yard touchdown reception on the only play of a second-quarter drive was appreciated, tepidly.
Kyle Emmanuel’s interception off a drop/deflection by cornerback Trevor Williams created some noise.
But never did the crowd roar in a way that shook the place. More in a way that made you shake your head.
“Yeah,” Philip Rivers said. “It would have been awesome.”
The question the Chargers quarterback was replying to was about what it would have been like in San Diego for a game of this magnitude that went the way it did.
Rivers often lauded Qualcomm Stadium as among the best home fields in the NFL when the Chargers were winning.
Thing is, this is where he and his teammates are. And they’re fine with it, sure as Dean Spanos is still cashing the big checks. After a period of feeling sorry for themselves early, Chargers players are just winning now.
“I think we got all that out of our system,” Rivers said. “I don’t think it fazes us at all.”
It’s true. The L.A. Chargers have won four in a row and seven of their last nine. They play Saturday at Kansas City, the team with which they are tied for first in the AFC West.
The entire tenor of the season has changed. The Chargers have gone from 0-4 and then 3-6 and still way out to 7-6 and right in the thick of it.
And so few here care it is tempting to say no one does.
This is not bitterness. This is truth. (Truth sometimes just happens to taste like a grapefruit drizzled with lemon juice basted in vinegar.)
If this game — with the Chargers tied for first place with four games left in the season — was played at Qualcomm Stadium at any point up until the Spanos family pointed one foot headed north, it would have left all in attendance shaking from the shaking.
Remember that? No current Chargers besides Rivers and Antonio Gates were around. The rest of them point to sparse crowds and those infused with enemy colors the past few seasons.
But the Q rocked when the Chargers were rolling.
If you had stopped to think about it at the time, you would have wondered if you were in danger, if concrete was going to start to rain in the old place.
But who stopped to think?
Close your eyes all these years later, you can still hear the chants.
“You can’t run!”
All the noise. The rumbling.
Close your eyes at StubHub Center, you might fall asleep.
This isn’t unique to the Chargers. It’s not because L.A. hates the Chargers or is not interested in them specifically.
Los Angeles isn’t interested in much if it isn’t Dodgers or Lakers or the alma mater-specific passion for USC and UCLA.
If the San Diego Chargers were playing a game for first place in Kansas City, San Diego would be beside itself this week.
You wouldn’t leave the house without seeing blue and gold. There would be conversations in grocery lines and around cubicles and on cul de sacs.
In L.A. and Orange County this week, whatever the Ball family is doing, USC’s bowl practice, Shohei Ohtani (that stings), the Dodgers’ winter meetings machinations and traffic on the 5, 405, 101, 710, 110 and 91 will come before any acknowledgment of the Chargers.
Saturday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium will certainly garner a bigger rating in San Diego than that in the L.A. market, though the size of the populace will likely mean more people in L.A. watch the game.
Whatever the numbers, it will be a bigger deal south of San Clemente.
There remain many Chargers fans in San Diego. And maybe hate watching can be revived for the day with a bunch of San Diegans conflicted between being happy for Rivers possibly getting another shot at the postseason but wanting Dean Spanos’ team to crumble.
There is at least a decent chance that happens.
The last time the Chargers were above .500 at this point, they choked.
It was 2014, and they went from 8-4 and in control of the AFC wild card race to 9-7 and out of the postseason.
In 2011, three straight victories got them to 7-7 and one spot out of a playoff berth. A Christmas Eve loss at Detroit eliminated them.
In 2010, they won five of six and two straight to get to 8-6, within a game of division-leading Kansas City. A Week 16 loss at Cincinnati was the end of that.
But this team looks a more like older times — when December runs made for January football. Rivers is hot. Allen and Williams are filling the roles of Keenan McCardell, Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd. A young, talented defense recalls those led by Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips. (No one is filling LaDainian Tomlinson’s part, though he is on the sideline for every home game as a member of the Chargers front office.)
“There’s a neat dimension to this team,” Rivers said. “It’s just a little bit of a quiet cocky confidence.”
Quiet. That’s appropriate.