Back-to-Back AFC Rivals, Fourth-Quarter Plays and Jerraud Powers on Philip Rivers
ANOTHER RIVALRY GAMEAfter playing a familiar foe in New England last Sunday, the Colts face another common opponent this week as they prepare to take on the San Diego Chargers at Lucas Oil Stadium at 8:20 p.m. this Sunday.
Like the Patriots, the Chargers reside in a different division than the Colts, but that has not stopped the two teams from playing each other six times since 2004. And not only have the games been played, they have been close, too.
Five of the last six games have been decided by six points or less, including two overtime games. The Chargers have won four of the last six games, and the Colts, two.
"Interestingly enough, there have been some similarities (between the New England and San Diego rivalries) in terms of just how hard-fought these games typically are year in and year out," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "They're no different. They are a team that creates problems for you just in terms of matchups.
"It's been a real battle with them throughout the years as well."
The Chargers have won four consecutive division titles and are in the hunt for a fifth. They began the season 2-5, but have won the past three games to even their record at .500, and they find themselves one game behind AFC West leader Kansas City.
Said Colts linebacker Gary Brackett: "Us and anyone else that has been successful the past couple of years have been battling. Those guys are very tough competition as well, and they have disappointed us in a few seasons knocking us out of the playoffs. That's when the rivalry started with New England, when they knocked us out back in '03. So definitely, the rivalry is starting to brew with San Diego, and they are picking it up like they usually do in the second half of the season. It will be another tough opponent."
San Diego is the NFL leader in total offense and defense, and ranks first in passing and against the pass. Quarterback Philip Rivers leads an offense that gains 418.2 yards per game, including 306.5 passing, while the defense allows only 270.7 yards per game, 86.8 on the ground and 183.9 through the air.
"They have a real strong offensive scheme that functions well," said Caldwell. "They have an outstanding quarterback who is a great leader and they also have a defensive scheme that morphs into a number of things that can give you a lot of difficulty and a lot of problems."
'WE JUST HAVE TO FIND A WAY TO WIN THE CLOSE ONES'
Of the Colts' four losses this season, three—at Jacksonville, at Philadelphia and at New England—have come by three points or less, each coming down to a fourth-quarter drive.
And while Caldwell addressed many things during Monday's press conference, including the need for consistency on both sides of the ball, he also said that close games are quite normal.
"Typically that's what we talk about," Caldwell said. "It doesn't matter who you play for the most part. It comes down to, like we say often, what happens in the last minute or so of the ballgame. You are either driving trying to score, tie it up or win it or you are defending, trying to prevent the opposition from doing the same. I don't think this one (against San Diego) will be any different."
Said Colts second-year defensive back Jerraud Powers: "If you look at last year's games, everyone talked about what a great season we had, winning 14 straight or whatever the case might be. But if you look at seven or eight of those games, it was a seven- or three-point victory that could have easily went the other way. We've been in the same situation this year. We just haven't found the way to win the close ones like we did last year. Eventually, this thing is going to turn around. We are still in the thick of it, we just have to find a way to win close ones."
Powers said Monday he planned on watching the Chargers' Monday Night Football game to get a better look at Sunday's opponent. But he also admitted that was not the only reason to view the contest, as he will get plenty of film study during the week.
"Watching it from a fan's point of view on the TV live, it is kind of hard to see what you want to see because you cannot get to look at it from all of the angles you want to look at it from," Powers said. "You definitely try to pick up on some things. As a football fan you are going to watch it, but I think if you ask a lot of guys around the room, usually we watch it a little bit, but not a lot of it because we are going to see a ton of film on them throughout the week.
"I think I'll watch it because of being a fan of Philip (Rivers) ever since I was a kid and when he was at N.C. State and doing his thing there. I'm pretty sure I'll watch a good bit of it."
A fan? Yes. Powers said he is a fan of the Chargers quarterback because they both grew up in Decatur, Ala. Rivers' father, Steve, coached at Decatur High School prior to taking the head coaching position at nearby Athens High School, where Philip Rivers eventually would attend high school. And while they never played with or against one another, Powers has followed Rivers, who is five years his senior, throughout both his collegiate and NFL careers.
Powers admitted Sunday's game against San Diego will be "very special" to him.
"He is a playmaker and is one of those guys that is going to do whatever it takes to win," Powers said. "He is going to fight to the end and is not one of those quarterbacks that is going to sit back there and let things happen and just be fine with it. He is going to fight to the end and try to make plays. He has a great offense and a good corps of receivers and (Antonio) Gates and (Vincent) Jackson will be back this week, so it will be another tough matchup."
After facing Tom Brady and the Patriots this past Sunday, Powers said he is prepared for what to expect from Rivers and the Chargers offense.
"It doesn't get any easier, that's what they say," Powers said smiling. "He has that same fire that Tom and Peyton have."