TE Dallas Clark (Andy Lyons/Getty)
The Chargers made sure the Colts will never forget their last game in the RCA Dome. San Diego overcame questionable calls, debilitating injuries and a fourth-quarter deficit to eliminate the defending Super Bowl champions, 28-24. Next week, the Chargers will travel to New England and try to extract revenge against the undefeated Patriots.
Despite a few hiccups along the way, the Chargers executed their game plan to perfection. The Chargers ran the ball and stopped the run, holding a 99-44 advantage in rushing yards. They won the turnover battle, 3-1. And Philip Rivers played within himself, hitting 14 of 19 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns.
The Chargers caught a break early in the game with the Colts leading 7-0. Indy was driving deep in San Diego territory and looking to push its lead to 14 when Antonio Cromartie stripped Marvin Harrison on Harrison’s first catch since Week 7. Marlon McCree fell on the ball at the San Diego 22 and the Chargers were back in the game.
San Diego answered with a 10-play drive that took 7:16 off the clock and knotted the score at 7. Vincent Jackson was the recipient of the tying score, courtesy of a 14-yard jump ball from Rivers. Jackson delivered his second clutch performance in as many weeks, catching seven passes for 93 yards and a touchdown.
Jackson was one of many offensive players who stepped up as the game became a war of attrition. LaDainian Tomlinson left with more than nine minutes left in the first half with a bruised knee. Rivers missed the fourth quarter after spraining his knee. And Antonio Gates was in and out of the lineup with a dislocated toe.
It didn’t matter.
Michael Turner stepped in for Tomlinson and rushed 17 times for 71 yards (4.2 ypc). Darren Sproles saw increased time, too, and turned a short screen pass into a 56-yard touchdown. Billy Volek also stepped up, completing 3 of 4 passes for 48 yards and scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard sneak with less than five minutes to play.
Turner and Volek will both be free agents after the season and certainly relished the opportunity to shine in such a prominent setting.
The patchwork offense kept pace with the high-scoring Colts and San Diego’s defense did the rest. Cromartie intercepted Manning for the fourth time in two meetings. He returned the pick 89 yards for an apparent touchdown, although the score was negated by a suspect holding call on Eric Weddle.
Weddle redeemed himself in the third quarter by intercepting Manning at the San Diego 2-yard line. In 17 games this season, Manning threw multiple interceptions in only two games, both of them against the Chargers. The Chargers also delivered two fourth-down stops, both in the final three minutes of the game.
The Chargers will now travel to Gillette Stadium to face the 17-0 New England Patriots. Last year, the Pats ended San Diego’s season by upsetting the No. 1 seed on its home field. This year, the Chargers will look to return the favor.
Lorenzo Neal was inactive for the fifth consecutive game with a leg injury. He practiced during the week and was expected to play…Manning threw for more than 400 yards for the first time all season (402) but was intercepted twice. He threw 16 interceptions in the regular season and playoffs, half of them to the Chargers…Nate Kaeding missed a 48-yard field goal. His career postseason conversion rate (40 percent) is less than half of his regular season rate (86.7).