One more report from the land of the 10 a.m. NFL kickoff:
We cruised into Qualcomm Stadium two hours before the game. That’s what you do in San Diego, cruise. I haven’t encountered traffic since I landed Friday morning. Of course, I’ve spent most of my time walking down the street to one of the country’s great Mexican restaurants, the Old Town Mexican Café. The only traffic there is inside.
Outside Qualcomm, I saw what looked like a giant water bottle, the kind you see in machines in offices. But there wasn’t water in it, there was beer. And there were two hoses, and one guy drank out of one hose and another guy drank out of the other. A good time was had by both.
If the San Diego defense’s past work at Qualcomm is indicative, the Panthers might not have a good time today.
The Chargers led the NFL last season by giving up only 10 touchdowns at home (as opposed to 21 on the road). They did not give up a first-quarter point at home last season (as opposed to 47 first-quarter points on the road). They intercepted 22 passes at home (as opposed to eight on the road). They are 15-1 at home the last two seasons.
However, two of their most important players likely will be at less than full speed today. Tight end Antonio Gates had off-season surgery on a dislocated toe and has tiptoed through camp and exhibitions. Linebacker Shawne Merriman has two tears in his left knee. He dared not to have surgery and will wear a brace.
Left tackle Marcus McNeill is out. If so, he’ll be replaced by journeyman free agent L.J. Shelton. That means Shelton, a 10-year veteran who changes teams the way some of us change shirts, will work against Julius Peppers.
Enjoy the game.