Well, that one’s in the book, folks. The Colts move to 4-2 after another San Diego heartbreak. The final score of 19-9 seemed closer than the actual game. The Chargers outgained the Colts 374-267, converted 7/14 third downs versus Indy’s 2/10, and held the ball for 38:31. They appeared to be a step ahead of everything the Colts tried to do.
Much like last week’s thrilling victory over the Seahawks, it didn’t start out that way. The game began with Andrew Luck drawing the defense offside with a hard count – in an away game – then throwing a 35-yard flea flicker pass to Reggie Wayne.
The drive fizzled out, ending in a field goal and a 3-0 lead, but things looked good for Indianapolis. The defense then came out and forced a three and out. On third down, ILB Jerrell Freeman, who grew up watching Chargers QB Philip Rivers and TE Antonio Gates, grounded the veteran duo with some tight, physical one-on-one coverage against Gates.
This is the end of the good part. Indianapolis followed up the defense’s performance with a quick three and out. The defense, still playing well at this point, trotted back out after a bad punt by Pat McAfee (he did not get the good bounce that Scifres enjoyed), gave up one first down, and forced another punt.
This time, Scifres pinned the offense back at their own 7-yard line, and the drops began. T.Y. Hilton had the first of four crucial drops by the wide receivers and tight ends in what would prove to be another short possession: 5 plays, 17 yards, 2:41.
The Colts defense came back out a bit tired, and the Chargers capped a 12-play, 74-yard drive with a 22-yard pass from Rivers to rookie receiver Keenan Allen. Most of the game continued this way. The Co
Colts Drop One in San Diego, 19-9
lts next drive was a near carbon copy of their last: 5 plays, 20 yards, 2:12, a big drop of a potential touchdown by Darrius Heyward-Bey, who had great separation but couldn’t quite reel in the pass as it glanced off his fingertips.
The defense would go on to hold San Diego out of the endzone for the remainder of the game despite giving up long drive after long drive: the aforementioned 12-play, 74-yard TD drive, then 17/79/FG, 11/65/FG, 15/74/FG, and even a much needed punt in the fourth quarter.
Before the Chargers’ final score with 3:17 remaining, the Colts had held San Diego to 16 points and 342 yards. The problem was they struggled to get off the field on third down, and the offense couldn’t stay on the field.
Coby Fleener and Reggie Wayne would eventually join Hilton and Heyward-Bey in the drop club on the evening, while the Colts settled for punts and field goals – two 50+ yarders by Adam Vinatieri, that while impressive, weren’t enough to beat a determined Chargers squad.
There were a couple occasions where social media was abuzz with criticisms of Chuck Pagano and Pep Hamilton for not going for it on fourth down in the second half, including one in poor field position. The reason many would have wanted Indy to go for it there was the running game was working, it was fourth and 2 with just 4:27 left, and the Chargers had dominated time of possession, converting third downs at will.
Many feared the Colts would not see another possession, but he exhausted defense was able to keep San Diego out of the endzone one last time. On fourth and inches, Nick Novak kicked a 50-yarder for the final score of 19-9.
Andrew Luck, whose final pass was intercepted by safety Eric Weddle, finished 18/30 for 202 yards and a 66.3 rating. Had he not been let down by his receivers, his numbers, and the game, may have looked much different, but bad play on third down on both sides of the ball, penalties (the Colts had 5, 3 of which went for first downs), and the defense’s inability to pressure Rivers eventually sealed their fate.
This didn’t look like a bad team, more of a good team playing badly. Next week, however, the challenge is far greater with You-Know-Who and the undefeated Denver Broncos coming by for a visit.
A few notes, in no particular order:
– Jerrell Freeman was injured and never returned. Manusky never changed the scheme to give his replacement, Mario Harvey, some much help in coverage. Harvey had a rough time, but showed how important, and how good, Freeman is in man-to-man coverage. It’s nice to have faith in the next man up, but hopefully they will change some things if that happens again.
– Danny Woodhead caught 5 passes for 47 yards out of the backfield. Finally, in the fourth quarter, Indy blitzed an inside linebacker, backup Kelvin Sheppard, forcing Woodhead to stay in and block. Sheppard, as Jon Gruden was quick to point out, steamrolled Woodhead and sacked Rivers.
– Trent Richardson started out better than he finished, the opposite of last week, and ended up with 10 carries for 40 yards and a bruising 13-yard catch and run.
– For all his struggles in coverage, Harvey finished with 10 tackles – 9 of them solo.
– Keenan Allen is an impressive young receiver
– David Reed is not. I hope he can play better, make a positive difference, and deflect some of the fan criticism that’s floating around.
– Reggie Wayne now has 1,001 career catches. He is just the 9th player in NFL history to reach that number. Marvin Harrison finished with 1,102. If Reggie can stick around another year or two, he could become the Colts’ all-time leading receiver. Let’s all hope the next big milestone comes during a win.
– What is it about the Chargers? The Colts have had a better record going into seven straight contests with San Diego but have now gone 1-6 in those games.
– It’s only one game. They played poorly. They’re not the Jaguars (Sorry Jaguars).