1979 San Diego Chargers Season
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1979 San Diego Chargers Season

1979 San Diego Chargers season
OwnerEugene V. Klein
(Since 1966)
Head coachDon Coryell
(2nd season)
General managerJohnny Sanders
(Since 1976)
Home fieldSan Diego Stadium
Division place1st AFC West
Playoff finishLost Divisional Playoffs (Oilers) (14-17)
Pro Bowlers
AP All-Pros
The Chargers attempting to rush the ball through the Oilers' defensive line during the 1979 AFC Divisional Playoff Game.

The 1979 San Diego Chargers season was the team's 20th season, and tenth in the National Football League. Their 12-4 record was tied for the best in the league in 1979.

The 1979 Chargers finished in first place in the AFC West after having finished 9-7 in 1978. The Chargers made the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts threw for more than 4,000 yards, and wide receivers Charlie Joiner and John Jefferson both gained more than 1,000 yards receiving. The Chargers became the first AFC West champion to run more passing plays (541) then rushing (481).[3]

The season ended with a playoff loss to the Houston Oilers. It was the Chargers' first playoff game since the 1965 AFL Championship game loss to the Buffalo Bills.

As part of a marketing campaign, the Chargers created their fight song, "San Diego Super Chargers".[4]

The 2006 edition of Pro Football Prospectus,[5] listed the 1979 Chargers as one of their "Heartbreak Seasons", in which teams "dominated the entire regular season only to falter in the playoffs, unable to close the deal." Said Pro Football Prospectus of the team, "the creative [head coach] Don Coryell always designed potent offenses, but the San Diego defense didn't catch up until 1979. ... In their first playoff game, the Chargers hosted a Houston Oilers team missing running back Earl Campbell and quarterback Dan Pastorini and fell on their faces. Fouts threw five interceptions and no touchdowns, and the Chargers blew a third quarter lead and lost 17-14. The Chargers would not have the best record in the NFL again until the 2006 season. They would not have another top ten defense in points allowed until 1989. They would not win 12 games in a season until 2004. Their best shot at glory went horribly awry, thanks to the worst game in the illustrious career of Dan Fouts."

1979 NFL Draft

1979 San Diego Chargers draft
Round Pick Player Position College Notes
1 13 Kellen Winslow * +  Tight end Missouri from Cleveland
3 73 Cliff Thrift  Linebacker East Central from Cleveland
      Made roster    +   Pro Football Hall of Fame    *   Made at least one Pro Bowl during career


Regular season

On opening day in The Kingdome on September 2, the Chargers beat the Seattle Seahawks 33-14. Clarence Williams rushed for 2 touchdowns. Rolf Benirschke kicked 4 field goals, and Dan Fouts passed for 224 yards.

In week 2, Fouts had 3 touchdowns and linebacker Woodrow Lowe returned a Ken Stabler pass 32 yards for a score as San Diego beat the Oakland Raiders 30-10.

The next week, San Diego got a come-from-behind win over the Buffalo Bills as Clarence Williams picked up 157 yards on 18 carries and had a team-record 4 rushing TDs.

In week 4, Chargers lost to the New England Patriots 27-21. Patriot linebacker Steve Nelson preserved the victory with an interception of a Dan Fouts pass on the New England 2-yard line with 1:37 remaining in the game.

But the next week, they bounced back big time and before a CBS television audience, Dan Fouts overcame a rough first quarter to fire away completing 26 passes for 251 yards and 2 touchdown passes to produce a rout over the 49ers 31-9 with Dick Stockton and George Allen calling the game for CBS.


Week Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 September 2, 1979 at Seattle Seahawks W 33-16
2 September 9, 1979 Oakland Raiders W 30-10
3 September 16, 1979 Buffalo Bills W 27-19
4 September 23, 1979 at New England Patriots L 27-21
5 September 30, 1979 San Francisco 49ers W 31-9
6 October 7, 1979 at Denver Broncos L 7-0
7 October 14, 1979 Seattle Seahawks W 20-10
8 October 21, 1979 at Los Angeles Rams W 40-16
9 October 25, 1979 at Oakland Raiders L 45-22
10 November 4, 1979 at Kansas City Chiefs W 20-14
11 November 11, 1979 at Cincinnati Bengals W 26-24
12 November 18, 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers W 35-7
13 November 25, 1979 Kansas City Chiefs W 28-7
14 December 2, 1979 Atlanta Falcons L 28-26
15 December 9, 1979 at New Orleans Saints W 35-0
16 December 17, 1979 Denver Broncos W 17-7


AFC West
San Diego Chargers(1) 12 4 0 .750 6-2 9-3 411 246 W2
Denver Broncos(5) 10 6 0 .625 4-4 7-5 289 262 L2
Seattle Seahawks 9 7 0 .563 3-5 6-6 378 372 W2
Oakland Raiders 9 7 0 .563 3-5 5-7 365 337 L1
Kansas City Chiefs 7 9 0 .438 4-4 7-7 238 262 L1


Week Date Opponent Result Attendance
Divisional December 29, 1979 Houston Oilers L 17-14

AFC Divisional Game: Houston Oilers 17, San Diego Chargers 14

1 2 3 4 Total
Oilers 0 10 7 0 17
Chargers 7 0 7 0 14

at San Diego Stadium, San Diego

  • Game time: 4:00 pm EST/1:00 pm PST
  • Game weather: 60 °F (Sunny)
  • Scoring

First quarter

  • SD - Clarence Williams 1 yd rush (Mike Wood kick). Chargers 7-0

Second quarter

  • Hou - Toni Fritsch 26 yard field goal. Chargers 7-3.
  • Hou - Boobie Clark 1 yard rush (Toni Fritsch kick). Oilers 10-7

Third quarter

  • SD - Lydell Mitchell 8 yard rush (Mike Wood kick). Chargers 14-10
  • Hou - Mike Renfro 47 yard pass from Gifford Nielsen (Toni Fritsch kick). Oilers 17-14

Fourth quarter

  • No scoring


  • Hou - 1
  • SD - 5

A week after a game, Sports Illustrated published an article entitled "The Stolen Signals Caper." For the season, San Diego's standard game method was for Offensive Coordinator Joe Gibbs to stay upstairs in the booth and phone plays down to Head Coach Don Coryell and Jim Hanifan on the sidelines. The two of them would confer, and then Hanifan would signal in the plays using hand signals much like baseball teams use. Houston Defense Coordinator Eddie Biles broke the code. And the Oilers did not overplay their hand. Biles merely signaled the play to Oiler Middle Linebacker Gregg Bingham who called the Houston defense on the field. Bingham stated, "My job was to put us into the right defense--I guess you'd say the perfect defense." One result is that Houston Strong Safety Vernon Perry intercepted four of Fouts' passes, three of them while playing double coverage against the Chargers. Oiler J.C. Wilson also had one interception. The article stated, "People who have been around the Chargers for years said they had never seen him [Fouts] throw into so much double coverage."[6]

Awards and honors


  1. ^ "1979 NFL Pro Bowlers". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Archived from the original on September 4, 2009.
  2. ^ "1979 NFL All-Pros". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
  3. ^ Elderkin, Phil (September 16, 1980). "Chargers, in passing, write a book". Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on January 28, 2014.
  4. ^ Stetz, Michael (January 13, 2007). "Still a superstar after 27 seasons". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2011. Or a little song written back in 1979.
  5. ^ "Pro Football Prospectus 2006" (ISBN 0761142177), p.73-75
  6. ^ "The Stolen Signals Caper,", Sports Illustrated (archives), Paul Zimmerman, Jan. 7, 1980.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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