NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - INSIDE SLANT
Running the football played a huge role in the San Diego Chargers beating the Colts on Monday night. So did the Chargers' defense.
Four Nick Novak field goals and the Chargers' ability to keep Andrew Luck and the Colts out of the end zone paved the way for a 19-9 victory at Qualcomm Stadium.
"Give John Pagano the credit he deserves," Chargers coach Mike McCoy said of his defensive coordinator, the younger brother of Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. "He did an outstanding job of getting these players ready. It's him and the rest of the whole defensive staff. This is what it's all about. It's about winning football games."
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers went 22-for-33 for 237 yards and threw the game's lone touchdown pass as San Diego (3-3) bounced back from a disappointing loss to the Oakland Raiders a week ago.
Indianapolis (4-2) saw its three-game winning streak end.
Luck connected on 18 of 30 attempts for 202 yards, but he was hurt frequently by dropped passes. He also was picked off by cornerback Derek Cox with 1:07 remaining to seal the outcome.
"We stunk on third down today, and a lot of credit to their defense," Luck said. "They had great pressures, a good job covering guys, and we made our fair share of mistakes, but it's by what they did."
San Diego finished with a large advantage in time of possession (38:31-21:29). The Chargers gained 374 total yards while limiting the Colts to 267 total yards.
Chargers running back Ryan Mathews gained 102 yards on 22 carries, the first time he topped the century mark this season. Teammate Keenan Allen, who scored the game's only touchdown, made nine receptions for 107 yards.
"The balance we had in the running game was outstanding and something we worked on very hard," said McCoy, crediting offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. "A great plan by Ken and his staff. This was big for us to establish the run game this week. That was a big key going into the game and something we really focused on."
Neither team scored a touchdown in the second half, but the Chargers drove for three Novak field goals.
"I just tried to stay focused and confident," Novak said.
Indianapolis' Adam Vinatieri booted a 51-yard field goal to slice the gap to 16-9 with 7:21 remaining, but the Colts got no closer. Novak added a 50-yarder with 1:55 left.
Defense dictated the first half, but the Chargers used their ball-control offense to build a 10-6 halftime lead. After Vinatieri connected on a 30-yard field goal with 11:27 remaining in the first quarter, giving Indianapolis a 3-0 lead, San Diego played keep-away the rest of the half.
A 12-play, 74-yard drive, draining more than six minutes off the clock, ended with Rivers hitting Allen on a 22-yard scoring pass for a 7-3 lead at 12:02 of the second quarter.
On the Chargers' next possession, Rivers guided his team on a 17-play, 79-yard drive, resulting in a 31-yard field by Novak with 1:41 left for a 10-3 advantage.
However, Vinatieri converted a 50-yard field goal to end the half, cutting San Diego's lead to four.
San Diego possessed the ball for 18 minutes of the half compared to 12 for the Colts, including a 10:56-4:04 advantage in the second quarter.
NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - NOTES, QUOTES
--Colts WR Reggie Wayne (five catches, 88 yards) made his 1,000th career reception in the fourth quarter. He is the ninth player to reach the milestone in league history.
--Colts LB Jerrell Freeman suffered a concussion in the first half and did not return.
--Indianapolis' inactives were S LaRon Landry, RB Daniel Herron, LB Kavell Conner, C/G Khaled Holmes, T Xavier Nixon, LB Bjoern Werner and DT Montori Hughes.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We went up against a team that was defending its own turf and plays well in big-time games. I know through experience playing these guys, you will not be able to beat these guys playing the way we did tonight." -- Wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
What we learned about the Colts
The Colts' lack of a running game and the inability of receivers to make easy catches proved costly. Trent Richardson managed just 40 yards on 10 carries, and Indianapolis was limited to just 74 rushing yards overall. The reliable Reggie Wayne delivered with five catches for 88 yards, but T.Y. Hilton (five for 43), Coby Fleener and Darrius Heyward-Bey all had drops during the loss. Heyward-Bey dropped a potential first-half touchdown that could have jump-started the offense.
Though they wouldn't say it, the Colts' defensive players were privately fuming about their offense's performance Monday. Indianapolis' defense kept San Diego out of the end zone in the second half, but the Colts' offense failed to produce, managing just a second-half field goal.