A Capsule Look at Sunday's Colts-Chargers Game
COLTS (6-4) vs. CHARGERS (4-6)
Sunday, 8:15 p.m. EST
San Diego, Cal.
Colts – Tony Dungy, seventh season as Colts Head Coach (79-27, 86-32 including playoffs) and 12th season as NFL Head Coach (133-69, 142-78 including playoffs).
Chargers – Norv Turner, second season as Chargers Head Coach (15-11, 16-12 including postseason) and 11th season as an NFL Head Coach (73-93-1, 76-95-1 including postseason).
Colts – 6-4, 2nd in AFC South.
Chargers – 4-6, 2nd in AFC West.
LAST TIME IN PLAYOFFS
Colts – 2007.
Chargers – 2007.
2008 NFL RANKINGS
Offense – Overall, 17th (327.1 yards per game); Rushing, 32nd (77.7 ypg); Passing, 6th (249.4 ypg); Defense – Overall, 17th (327.9 yards per game); Rushing, 25th (138.5 ypg); Passing, 9th (189.4 ypg).
Offense – Overall, 14th (335.7 yards per game); Rushing, 26th (93.1 ypg); Passing, 7th (242.6 ypg); Defense – Overall, 27th (372.2 yards per game); Rushing, 15th (105.2 ypg); Passing, 32nd (267.0 ypg).
Colts – Peyton Manning (234-380 completions, 2,568 yards, 61.6 pct., 17 TD, 9 INT, 86.6 passer rating).
Chargers – Philip Rivers (191-296 completions, 2,513 yards, 64.5 pct., 21 TD, 10 INT, 100.8 passer rating).
Colts – Joseph Addai (113 carries, 387 yards, 5 TD); Dominic Rhodes (90 carries, 338 yards, 3 TD).
Chargers – LaDainian Tomlinson (182 carries, 686 yards, 5 TD); Darren Sproles (34 carries, 161 yards, 0 TD).
Colts – Reggie Wayne (56 receptions, 790 yards, 5 TD); Anthony Gonzalez (40 receptions, 473 yards, 2 TD); Dallas Clark (39 receptions, 459 yards, 3 TD); Marvin Harrison (39 receptions, 434 yards, 4 TD).
Chargers – Antonio Gates (40 receptions, 479 yards, 6 TD); Vincent Jackson (37 receptions, 646 yards, 4 TD); LaDainian Tomlinson (36 receptions, 294 yards, 1 TD); Chris Chambers (19 receptions, 294 yards, 5 TD).
Colts – Dwight Freeney (7), Robert Mathis (5).
Chargers – Shaun Phillips (4); Jyles Tucker (4).
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?
Colts – The Colts, after back-to-back double-digit road losses, have won three consecutive games – including two against AFC division leaders – to solidify their position in the AFC playoff chase. The Colts lost at Green Bay (34-14) and Tennessee (31-21) before beating New England (18-15) at home, then rallying from a 10-point deficit to beat Pittsburgh (24-20) two weeks ago. They beat Houston, 33-27, at home this past Sunday.
Chargers – The Chargers, after a 3-3 start, have lost three of their last four games to slide to 4-6 – two games behind West-leading Denver. They went 0-2 on a difficult road trip, losing 23-14 in Buffalo and traveling to London for a 37-32 loss to New Orleans before their bye week. San Diego held off a late rally to beat Kansas City, then lost at Pittsburgh this past Sunday.
QUOTES TO NOTE
"Like New England, it (San Diego) is a team not in our division that we have played at least once for the past couple of years, so there certainly is some familiarity with the personnel. They (the San Diego Chargers) are a pretty diverse defense, giving you different looks each week, so you have to prepare for one thing and be ready to adjust to whatever they have for that particular game."
--- Colts Quarterback Peyton Manning
"This will tell the story. What will December mean? What meaning will it have? Two games back but the team (Denver) we're two games back from, we get to play them once. You just hope you can gain enough ground where that game will mean everything."
--- Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers
The Chargers, the defending AFC West champions and a team widely selected to contend for the AFC title, have lost three of their last four games – including an 11-10 loss at Pittsburgh Sunday – but remain just two games behind Denver in the West.
That deficit doesn't mean the Chargers aren't dangerous, Colts President Bill Polian said.
And neither does a sub.-500 record.
"They are a very, very good football team," Polian said. "They have talent that is rare."
That talent includes quarterback Philip Rivers, the AFC's leading passer, as well as Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates and perennial Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
The Chargers this season have struggled at times offensively on the road, and against the Steelers on Sunday, they produced just 213 total yards, but they are 3-1 at home this season, and have averaged 30.5 points per game. Their lone loss came in the season-opener, when Carolina scored a touchdown on the final play of a 26-24 Panthers victory.
San Diego has two victories over plus-.500 teams at home this season, having beaten the AFC East-leading New York Jets, 49-28, there in September and defending AFC Champion New England, 30-10, there in October.
"They're a good football team," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. "They have a lot of talented guys. That New England game . . . that was one of the most impressive games I've seen played this year. That's what they're capable of, so that's what we have to go out expecting to get, that type of game, from them."
With Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman – one of the league's top pass rushers – out for the season, San Diego this season is last in the NFL in pass defense. The Chargers have registered just 22 sacks, the 12th highest total in the league. They were fifth in the NFL with 42 sacks last season.
San Diego last season led the NFL in turnover margin at plus-24 and takeaways with 48. They Chargers are 23rd in turnover margin at minus-5 this season and their 10 takeaways are tied for 29th in the NFL.
"This is a team that very easily could be and probably should be 7-3 except for a couple of bad calls and a bad bounce here and there," Polian said. "They're a very formidable opponent. You would much rather be playing them here, but we're not, so we have to go out to California and do our best."
Three key head-to-heads . . .
• Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis versus offensive tackles Marcus McNeill and Jeromey Clary. Freeney and Mathis have combined for 12 sacks this season, and Freeney – who sustained a season-ending foot injury at San Diego last November – has registered four sacks in the last two games. He has seven sacks this season, and is three away from his first double-digit sack season since 2005. The Chargers have allowed 14 sacks in 10 games, the 10th fewest in the NFL.
• Colts kickoff and punt coverage versus Chargers running back Darren Sproles. A fourth-year veteran from Kansas State, Sproles is one of the NFL's most-dynamic, most-dangerous returners, as evidenced by his performance against the Colts last season. In the Chargers' 23-21 victory over Indianapolis in San Diego last season, Sproles returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown and returned a punt 45 yards for a touchdown midway through the first quarter. The Colts have not allowed a punt or kickoff return for a touchdown this season.
• Colts wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison versus Chargers cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer. Wayne, a Pro Bowl selection the past two seasons, has continued to be one of the NFL's best wide receivers, ranking fifth in the AFC with 56 receptions and third in receiving yardage with 790 through 10 games. Harrison, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, has caught 39 passes for 434 yards and four touchdowns, catching a season-high nine passes for 77 yards and a touchdown against the Houston Texans last week. Cromartie made the Pro Bowl last season with 10 interceptions, but with the Chargers' pass rush less effective than last season, he has two interceptions in 10 games. The Chargers are ranked last in the NFL in pass defense.
CHARGERS IN REVIEW
The Chargers have struggled at times this season, and they enter Sunday's game with the Colts having lost four of six games.
They began the season with a 26-24 loss at home to Carolina, losing when Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dante Rosario as time expired, and after a 39-38 loss at Denver, they beat the New York Jets at home and Oakland on the road to even their record.
They then lost at Miami before a 30-10 victory over New England, but a 23-14 loss at Buffalo and a 37-32 loss to New Orleans in London pushed them to 3-5 entering a Week 9 bye.
They held off a late rally to beat Kansas City at home before losing a late lead at Pittsburgh Sunday, a game in which they led much of the first half and held a 10-8 lead in the fourth quarter before losing, 11-10. The loss, the 13th for the Chargers in as many regular-season trips to Pittsburgh, was secured when Steelers kicker Josh Reed converted a 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds remaining.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers completed 15 of 29 passes for 159 yards and was intercepted twice.
The Chargers have been up and down this season, but one thing has remained true. They are very, very good at home, which is a reason they are optimistic about their playoff hopes entering the final month and a half of the season. The Chargers, who have won 18 of their last 20 games at Qualcomm Stadium, trail Denver by two games, but they play at home in their next three games and four of their final six. They haven't played three consecutive home games since 2001. They are 3-1 at home this season, with the lone loss coming in a 26-24 season-opening loss to Carolina, with the Panthers scoring on the game's final play. The Chargers have averaged 35 points a game at home and 22 on the road. Quarterback Philip Rivers has a 121.3 rating at home this season and 87.8 on the road.
The Colts and Chargers have played 23 times in the regular season, with the Chargers leading the series, 14-9 and the Chargers winning the last three overall meetings between the teams. The Chargers' three-game winning streak includes a 28-24 victory over the Colts in an AFC Divisional Playoff game at the RCA Dome this past January. The teams played two high-profile, memorable games in December of 2004 and 2005 and another in November of last season. In the 2004 meeting, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning set an NFL record by throwing his 49th touchdown pass of the season, a 21-yarder to wide receiver Brandon Stokley that sent the game into overtime. The Colts won, 34-31, in overtime on a 30-yard field goal by kicker Mike Vanderjagt. In 2005, the Chargers beat Indianapolis, 26-17, handing the Colts their first loss following 13 consecutive victories to start the season. Last November, the Colts rallied from a 23-0 first-half deficit before losing 23-21 when kicker Adam Vinatieri missed a 29-yard field goal in the final two minutes.
On January, 13, 2008, the Chargers rallied from a series of single-digit deficits to beat the Colts, 28-24 in an AFC Divisional Playoff game and the final NFL game in the 24-year history of the RCA Dome. The Colts outgained the Chargers, and had more first downs and a time-of-possession advantage. They also had two first-half leads and two second-half leads, but Chargers backup quarterback Billy Volek scored on a 1-yard sneak with 4:50 remaining to give San Diego the victory. The Colts had the ball twice in the final five minutes with a chance to take the lead. First, they drove from their 23 to the Chargers 7, but on 4th-and-goal with 2:06 remaining, quarterback Peyton Manning threw incomplete to running back Joseph Addai. After a San Diego punt, the Colts turned the ball over on downs to end their final comeback opunity. Manning completed 33 of 48 passes for 402 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.