NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - 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 - San Diego Chargers - NOTES, QUOTES
--Chargers WR Eddie Royal left the game in the first half with a toe injury.
--The Chargers lead the series 18-10, winning six of the past seven meetings. The teams last met in the first round of the 2008-09 playoffs, when the Chargers recorded a 23-17 overtime victory.
--San Diego's inactives were LB Jarret Johnson, G Chad Rinehart, DE Lawrence Guy, T Mike Remmers, LB Donald Butler, S Brandon Taylor and QB Brad Sorensen.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a great win for us. Everyone doubted us coming into this game. We came in and imposed our will on these guys. We just got our confidence back." -- Wide receiver Keenan Allen.
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
What we learned about the Chargers
When the Chargers can run the football, they are a different team. They didn't have a runner top 100 yards in any of their four previous contests, which the Chargers split. Quarterback Philip Rivers frequently carried the load, passing for more than 400 yards in three of the first four games, but he and the Chargers were able to use an effective ball-control attack to keep the Colts off the field. Ryan Mathews rushed for 102 yards on 22 carries.
The Chargers' defense can deliver a group effort. Linebacker Manti Te'o, cornerback Derek Cox (who intercepted an Andrew Luck pass late in the contest) and safety Eric Weddle recorded five tackles apiece as San Diego limited Indianapolis to nine points. Defensive end Corey Liuget also played well.