INDIANAPOLIS — He leaned into the microphone and he knew he was on the air. His voice was strong and clear, and with no hint of hesitation Lee (Hacksaw) Hamilton suggested on his XTRA radio show this week that the Chargers could/should win nine of the next 11 games to finish 10-6.
"We've all been drooling for this part of the schedule and now it's here," kicker John Carney said. "We're fortunate the schedule is made up this way. Now it's time to capitalize on it."
The Chargers, who have won nine of their last 30 games, are riding a one-game winning streak and feeling good about themselves. Like Hamilton, the voice of the Chargers, they have looked ahead at the schedule, and they envision success:
\o7 A win over the Colts in Indianapolis, a victory over the struggling Broncos in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium and a rematch triumph on friendly ground with the Colts. Three weeks of bliss, a 4-4 overall record, and happy days are here again.
\f7 This is a "turn-the-corner" game, a chance for the Chargers to live up to the promise suggested by the hiring of Coach Bobby Ross.
"This is a pivotal time for us," cornerback Gill Byrd said. "Believe it or not, with four losses we're still not out of this thing. The two leaders (Denver and Kansas City) have two losses and we're just two games out with 11 games left to go. We're in this thing, and I hope all the guys realize that."
In 1990, the Chargers faced a similar circumstance and went into Kansas City with a 5-5 mark and a chance to earn a share of first place. They lost, 27-10.
In 1989, the Chargers opened the season 2-2 and were in position to challenge for the AFC West Division lead, but lost to Denver, 16-10. They were also 2-2 in 1988 and fell at home to Denver, 12-0.
Six consecutive defeats sabotaged an 8-1 start in 1987; a 30-24 overtime defeat in 1985 at Denver sent the Chargers moving in the wrong direction after a 5-5 start.
"There have been a lot of should-have, could-have chances to win in the past and we haven't gotten it done," defensive end Burt Grossman said. "You look at this game, and we should win. But then they're looking at us and our 1-4 record and they're in their locker room saying, 'We should win.' "
The Colts (3-2) have the chance to open the season 4-2 for the first time since 1983, when Baltimore was their home.
However, the Colts rank 27th on offense, and in their last 10 appearances on their AstroTurf in the Hoosier Dome they have averaged nine points a game. They have failed to rush for more than 100 yards in 18 of their last 21 contests, including all five games this year. The Colts have failed to register a touchdown in the second quarter of any of their games.
The Broncos, who visit San Diego on Oct. 25, have been unable to protect quarterback John Elway. They were blasted by Philadelphia and Washington.
The Colts' and Broncos' weaknesses play to the Chargers' strength. The Chargers rank No. 1 on defense in the AFC, and the Colts and Broncos appear to lack the punch to damage the Chargers' lofty ranking. The Chargers believe quarterback Stan Humphries has become more comfortable with the offense, and wide receiver Anthony Miller had nine receptions for 142 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over Seattle.
This is the Chargers' opportunity to get well in a hurry.
"If we're going to do it, we have to do it in these next three weeks," said running back Rod Bernstine, who will start in place of Marion Butts (injured knee). "If we don't do it in these next three weeks, it's not going to be done this year."
The Colts, 1-15 a year ago, have defeated Cleveland, Tampa Bay and the New York Jets. They are learning a no-huddle offense under new Coach Ted Marchibroda.
Jeff George, who is 8-22 in his career as a starting quarterback, will be making his third appearance since suffering a thumb injury in exhibition play. He has completed 47.2% of his passes, ranking 12th among AFC quarterbacks.
"George got sacked a lot last year, and hopefully his confidence in the people around him is shaky," said linebacker Junior Seau, who sustained a strained groin muscle Friday. "He got banged up pretty good against the Jets last weekend and was coming off an injury. If we can keep the pressure up, maybe he'll start to question those around him."
The Colts have gone to the no-huddle attack since George's return. Marchibroda, the architect of Buffalo's hurry-up offense, has allowed George to call his own plays at the line of scrimmage.
"The no-huddle presents a problem if we can't get our substitutions in," Byrd said. "But it doesn't seem like they rush up like Buffalo. Buffalo is just rapid fire. They let the clock run down, while George looks over the defense, which may benefit us in that we can substitute."
George will take aim at wide receivers Bill Brooks, Jessie Hester and Reggie Langhorne. Hester has dropped five passes in the past two games but remains the Colts' main deep threat.