For the third time, in as many games, the Chargers had a lead in the fourth quarter, and for the second time already, they blew it. The Chargers melted down again in heartbreaking fashion, losing 26-22 to the Indianapolis Colts in a game, that left fans in San Diego with a familiar sickening feeling in their stomachs.
The Colts got off to a hot start gaining a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Chargers fought back sustaining a long drive one drive and intercepting Luck on another, but could not put the ball in the end zone, settling for two field goals. The Colts then answered back with another field goal to increase the lead to 13-6, but Philip Rivers came back down the field to the Colts 17-yard line before Rivers was stripped on a sack by Erik Walden, Indianapolis recovered. Chris Hairston gave up the sack, and was only in the game because usual starter King Dunlap was a late scratch, due to an undisclosed sickness.
The Chargers gained the momentum back late in the half on a game changing strip sack of Andrew Luck, which was picked up by Chargers defensive tackle Caraun Reid and he took it all the way for a 61-yard scoop and score, tying the game at thirteen.
The two teams each scored a touchdown on their opening drives of the second half but the Colts led 20-19, because of a Josh Lambo missed extra point. The Chargers came back with a long drive getting all the way down to the 4-yard line of Indy, before stalling out and settling for a field goal which gave them a two point lead with 7:34 left in the game.
Although the Chargers lead was only two points, they had several chances to put the Colts away, the first being a 3rd-and-3 with 2:40 left to play, the Chargers were aggressive and chose a passing play, but Travis Benjamin could not corral a bad Rivers pass which should have gained at least 10 yards and kept the clock moving. Instead they punted, leaving Indy down 20-22 with 2:29 remaining and two timeouts.
After giving the ball back, the Chargers defense quickly forced a fourth down on the first series, but the desperate Colts converted the attempt to a relatively wide open T.Y. Hilton, for a first down. Hilton absolutely torched San Diego’s defense and he wasn’t done. Only two plays later Luck found T.Y. again, splitting Jason Verrett and Dexter McCoil then showing his world-class speed absolutely putting safety Adrian Phillips on skates, zig zagging down the field for a 63-yard touchdown.
The Colts failed on their two-point conversion attempt, so Philip Rivers and company were left with 1:17 to go, down 26-22, with two timeouts, and one chance to make things right. The Chargers needed a big play, and on 2nd-and-11 they looked to have it when rookie tight end Hunter Henry caught a pass over the middle taking it 18 yards up field, before Colts safety Clayton Geathers punched the ball out of his hands. The Colts recovered the fumble, and as quickly as it started the Chargers hope for a comeback win, were shut down.
The game ended strangely after the Chargers forced one last punt by the Colts, using all 11 of its defenders to try to block the punt, but the Chargers were given one untimed down from the 18-yard line, because Indianapolis touched the ball first on the punt. On the play Rivers through a short pass to Travis Benjamin who took it about 20 yards, before fumbling as he attempted to lateral the ball.
Manti Te’o, San Diego’s play caller and inside linebacker, went down in the first quarter and had to be helped to the locker room. He did not return and we now know that he has a torn achilles and will miss the remainder of the season. Jatavis Brown who stripped Andrew Luck in this game, will now have to slide into Te’o’s starting spot next to Denzel Perryman, giving them a more athletic but much less experienced group.
This is one of many issues that needs to be addressed as the Chargers struggled again on defense when they were needed, and the youth is showing in all of the wrong ways. They also were unable to run the ball effectively, even though Melvin Gordon notched his fourth touchdown in three games, he found no rhythm carrying the ball 16 times for only 35 yards. This killed them when they went into their four-minute offense, to drain clock and run the game out.
The Chargers will have to regroup as they are slated to play the high-octane offense of the New Orleans Saints at 1:25 PM Pacific Time next Sunday at the Q.
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