San Diego — Standing on the sideline last Sunday, San Diego Chargers linebacker Donnie Edwards felt himself having an out-of-body experience.
The Chargers had just scored against Kansas City, and the disco song "San Diego Super Chargers" from the Air Coryell era was playing on the PA.
"For a split moment, I took myself out of reality. I thought, 'Oh, my God, this is me 20 years ago sitting in the stands watching Dan Fouts throwing the ball to Charlie Joiner,'" said Edwards, who grew up in a working-class suburb of San Diego.
"So that feeling is here again, in my eyes. I hope we can continue and get to our ultimate goal, which is the Super Bowl."
Yes, the Bolts are back in the playoffs, having ended one of their characteristic long postseason droughts -- the latest lasted eight seasons -- and will play host to the wild-card New York Jets in prime time tonight on what could be a very wet night.
Just like the heroes of Edwards' youth eventually made way for the Stan Humphries-Natrone Means playoff teams of the mid-1990s, a whole new batch of Chargers are bringing in this playoff era.
Pro Bowlers Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates, who powered a high-scoring, exciting offense, will be making their playoff debuts. Edwards will play in just the second postseason game in his nine-year career, the first having come seven seasons ago with the Chiefs.
Tackle Roman Oben and wide receiver Keenan McCardell will play on the same field where they helped Tampa Bay win the Super Bowl two years ago.
Coach Marty Schottenheimer, who helped turn the Chargers from a 4-12 laughingstock into AFC West champions at 12-4, will be looking to do something about his 5-11 postseason record.
And the bandwagon never has been fuller.
"I think it's awesome. Everyone is really on a high," Edwards said. "It's been a long time since we gave the Chargers fans something to have pride in and be excited for. I know a lot of guys who have been sitting on their Chargers hat and not really wearing it.
"If you go out in the community now, there are bumper stickers, there's flags out there. The fans are strong and they're loud, and I'm just really happy to have them back."
Back on Sept. 19, the Chargers looked anything like a playoff team when they lost, 34-28, to the Jets. Curtis Martin ran for 119 yards and scored on the Jets' first two possessions.
"That game feels like it was five seasons ago," said Brees, who finished the season with 27 TD passes and just seven interceptions. "I think we've come so far. At that time in the season, we hadn't really found ourselves, and now we have. We started a great win streak and we want to start another win streak."
The Chargers found themselves shortly after that loss and won 11 of their last 13 games, including eight straight. Even when Tomlinson was slowed by a strained groin, Brees kept the Chargers going by connecting with Gates and later McCardell, obtained at the trading deadline.
The Jets certainly have noticed.
"The whole town, when we played them, it's kind of reverse," said Jets coach Herman Edwards, whose son, Marcus, is a receiver at San Diego State. "When we played them, they could not sell enough tickets and the game was blacked out. And now it's sold out, everyone is wearing Chargers jerseys."