AT IT AGAIN

Robert Mathis' sack/fumble early in the third quarter forced a turnover that prevented a San Diego score in the Colts' 23-20 victory over the Chargers Sunday night. Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy called the play a critical moment in a critical victory.

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Mathis' First Sack in Six Games Forces Key Turnover
SAN DIEGO, Cal. – Defensive end Robert Mathis entered the Colts' game against the San Diego Chargers Sunday night having gone five games without a sack.

When he broke that drought Sunday, he made it count.

And he did so in a familiar way.

Mathis, the Colts' sacks leader the past two seasons, broke free around the left end, and sacked Chargers Philip Rivers early in the third quarter Sunday night, forcing a fumble that defensive end Raheem Brock recovered to end a Chargers threat.

The play began with the Chargers facing a red-zone opunity.

It ended with momentum for the Colts.

"That was a big play," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. "It definitely was. They came out and drove the ball (on the first possession of the second half). They had a chance to take the lead, obviously, and the second half would have played out differently. We got that momentum-stopper and our offense took it down and scored.

"That really did change the complexion of the quarter."

Said Brock, "Rob did a great job beating his man and causing that fumble."

With the Chargers facing 3rd-and-12 at the Colts 14, Mathis broke around right end. As Rivers drifted to his left, Mathis slapped the ball out of his hands from behind. Brock picked up the fumble at the 25 and returned it to the 34.

"I was just telling him, 'Hold the ball – just hold the ball,' '' Mathis said. "We had to have a big play. Thank goodness we got it."

Rather than facing a three- or seven-point deficit, the turnover gave the Colts a first down at their 34. Thirteen plays later, they led, 17-10.

"That was huge," Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. "They were driving. He made a good play. That's what we needed, someone to step up and make a play. Robert did that for us."

Mathis, who has 50 career sacks, now has 28 forced fumbles. He has forced four fumbles this season. Mathis later in the quarter registered a half-sack.

SANDERS OUT: Bob Sanders missed a second consecutive game Sunday.

Sanders, the Colts' two-time Pro Bowl safety and the 2007 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year, was declared inactive shortly before kickoff of the team's game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium Sunday night.

Sanders, who missed the Colts' victory over Houston last week, missed practice all this past week with a knee injury.

The Colts' other inactives Sunday:

Defensive back Brandon Foster, linebacker Buster Davis, center Steve Justice, tight end Jamie Petrowski, wide receiver Roy Hall, defensive tackle Dan Muir and defensive end Curtis Johnson.

SATURDAY INJURED: Colts center Jeff Saturday, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, left the game with a calf injury in the second quarter and did not return.

Rookie center Jamey Richard replaced Saturday.

"We don't know exactly how bad it is," Dungy said. "We'll get the MRI, but they told me right when he did it that he wouldn't come back tonight. We'll see where it goes from here. . . .

"Even after Jeff went out, Jamey did a good job hanging in there and sorting things out."

ETC., ETC.: The Colts converted 10 of 17 third downs Sunday. "We did a good job," Dungy said. "They bring a lot of different packages, a lot of different pressures. I thought our offense picked things up well. Peyton got us in the right protections. We converted some big third downs." Said Manning, "It's a mindset to stay on the field. It's a mindset to try to be good on first and second down and stay in third and manageable. We've been pretty good on first and second down, which is helping our third-down production." . . . Second-year safety Melvin Bullitt started in place of Sanders for the seventh time this season. . . . When Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer intercepted a long pass by Manning on the second quarter, it was the first interception thrown by Manning in his last 140 passes.

HOW THEY SCORED

COLTS 03 07 07 03 – 23

CHARGERS 00 10 00 07 – 20

COLTS 3, CHARGERS 0

Adam Vinatieri 23 FG, 1:42 remaining first quarter. Drive: 12 plays, 72 yards, 5:40. Key play: Reggie Wayne 26 pass from Peyton Manning on 3rd-and-1 from Colts 42.

COLTS 3, CHARGERS 3

Nate Kaeding 35 FG, 11:47 remaining second quarter. Drive: Nine plays, 66 yards, 4:59. Key play: Malcolm Floyd 31 pass from Philip Rivers on 3rd-and-2 from Chargers 25.

CHARGERS 10, COLTS 3

Vincent Jackson 39 pass from Rivers (Kaeding kick), 4:56 remaining second quarter. Drive: Nine plays, 89 yards, 4:35. Key play: Floyd 23 pass from Rivers on 3rd-and-7 from Chargers 14.

COLTS 10, CHARGERS 10

Anthony Gonzalez 13 pass from Manning (Vinatieri kick), :38 remaining second quarter. Drive: Nine plays, 71 yards, 4:18. Key play: Joseph Addai 23 run on 3rd-and-1 from Colts 38.

COLTS 17, CHARGERS 10

Dominic Rhodes 1 pass from Manning (Vinatieri kick), 3:51 remaining third quarter. Drive: 13 plays, 66 yards, 7:10. Key play: Gonzalez 29 pass from Manning on 3rd-and-4 from Chargers 46.

COLTS 20, CHARGERS 10

Vinatieri 38 FG, 11:51 remaining fourth quarter. Drive: 13 plays, 62 yards, 4:10. Key play: Anthony Gonzalez 19 pass on 3rd-and-12 from Colts 48.

COLTS 20, CHARGERS 17

Jacob Hester 1 pass from Rivers (Kaeding kick), Drive: 12 plays, 70 yards, 6:12. Key play: LaDainian Tomlinson 1 run on 3rd-and-1 from Colts 46.

COLTS 20, CHARGERS 20

Kaeding 47 FG, 1:30 remaining fourth quarter. Drive: Eight plays, 58 yards, 1:45. Key play: Chambers 18 pass on 1st-and-10 from the Chargers 34.

COLTS 23, CHARGERS 20

Vinatieri 51 FG, :00 remaining fourth quarter. Drive: Eight plays, 37 yards, 1:30. Key play: Harrison 14 pass from Manning on 4th-and-1 from Chargers 48.

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