INDIANAPOLIS — Twenty-two plays into the afternoon, the Chargers had scored 10 points, Indianapolis had not crossed midfield, and it was over.
The Chargers' defense had its best game in 127 regular-season weeks. The Chargers' offense was better only one other time all fall.
It was 17-3, Chargers. It was the 13th game of last season. It was the Colts' 13th straight loss.
"It was the worst, the bottom of the barrel," said Jack Trudeau, Colt quarterback. "I know we got pounded pretty good, and I can't remember much more than that."'
"It's all I can do to forget," said Bill Brooks, wide receiver.
"Oh yeah," remembered Charger Coach Al Saunders. "It was one of the most unique games I can ever recall, in terms of noise. We drove down the field in the first 10 minutes, and all of sudden, the place was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. I have never heard silence like that before."
That was then. This is . . . wow.
Today at 10 a.m. PST at the same place, the Chargers and Colts will essentially play the same game by essentially the same rules, with a couple of teeny exceptions.
The Colts are in first place. The Colts have won 7 of their last 10 games, beginning when Coach Ron Meyer took over a day after last season's loss to the Chargers on Nov. 30.
The Colts have Eric Dickerson. The Hoosier Dome will have a sellout crowd of 60,127, at least 60,000 of whom have never seen Dickerson live in a Colts uniform.
"It will be exciting for them to see this guy up close," Meyer said.
If the fans look really close, they see the Colts aren't the only on-field aberration.
How about the Chargers?
The Chargers, who were only 3-10 when they defeated the Colts last season, also are in first place. They also have won 7 of 10 games since they last played here. They also are doing it with a new coach, one who took over last season.
"They remind us a lot of ourselves," said Meyer of the Chargers.
"In terms of what has happened to us," said Saunders, "we're very similar."
After today's game, there should be a difference between the two. It probably will depend upon how they handle each other's new additions.
Can the Chargers stop the Colts' new Dickerson? Can the Colts stop the Chargers' new confidence?
Not much can be predicted about the latter, only that it has been noticed. Network television personality Ahmad Rashad was in San Diego this week to film a special segment on the Chargers that will be shown before the game. We're talking a national-type confidence now.
"You can see it on the films. They are playing with that wild confidence that they can make anything happen," Brooks said.
As for Dickerson, well, everyone has an idea about how to stop him.
"Punish him," nose tackle Mike Charles said.
"Swarm and contain him," safety Vencie Glenn said.
"Lay a lot of hats on him," linebacker Chip Banks said.
Bad verbs, all of them, said linebacker Billy Ray Smith. "Since he now plays for the Colts," Smith said, "you've got to corral him."
Look at it this way: In last season's game here, the Chargers' defense celebrated all the way home after it allowed the Colts only 177 total yards. Eight times in his career, Dickerson has gained more than that himself.
"Fact is, a man who gains two-hundred-thousand-something yards, he's going to make you think," Charles said.
Here are a couple of things the Chargers must not think:
- Just because Dickerson has been with the team only a week and has competed in only one game for the Colts (he gained 38 yards in 10 carries against the Jets), he won't know or fit into the offense yet.
"Right," said Saunders, wincing. "What does he have to learn, when to run right and when to run left? That shouldn't take much more than say, a couple of minutes?"
- Just because there is a Dickerson doesn't mean there is anybody else. Like, say, a couple of All-Pros blocking for him. Or a good young quarterback throwing over him.
"How can I worry about Dickerson? I got my own problem right in front of me," said defensive end Les Miller, referring to All-Pro tackle Chris Hinton.
There is also All-Pro center Ray Donaldson. And first-round draft pick Ron Solt at guard. And a 320-pound tackle, Kevin Call, who is known as "The Creature."
The quarterback, it was announced Friday, will be Trudeau, a reserve who has won two straight games as a starter in place of injured Gary Hogeboom, including a 19-14 upset of the Jets in which he completed 14 of 23 passes for 192 yards.
"To think that Dickerson will be their whole offense is a big, big mistake," Glenn said.
In fact, Dickerson fouls things up without even touching the ball. The Chargers aren't certain if the Colts will go with the same one-back offense they have used all season, which had focused on their former starting running back, Albert Bentley, who had 145 yards against the Jets. Or will they will cater to Dickerson with the Ram-style two-back offense?
"The problem is not so much Dickerson, but how will they change their scheme for him?" defensive end Terry Unrein said. "On top of all his ability, he brings other complications."
Added Charles: "But we welcome him. We welcome Dickerson like we welcome all the great running backs. Actually, I'm glad he's there. It's good for us."
Yeah, sure, and the Chargers and Colts have combined records of 10-4 and are playing for first place, and it's almost winter.