The San Diego Chargers might be the toughest team to figure out. One week after being embarrassed by the lowly Oakland Raiders, the Bolts beat a 4-1 Indianapolis Colts team that had recent wins over the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.
The Chargers had a balanced offense for the first time all season. Instead of another 400-yard passing performance by Philip Rivers, the Bolts found their dormant running game and had a good mix of runs and passes. Ryan Mathews had his first 100-yard rushing game in what seems like forever, and Danny Woodhead added some more tough yards running. San Diego called 37 run plays compared to 35 pass plays.
The strong running game, as well as success of third downs, helped the Bolts sustain long drives, chew up the clock, and keep Andrew Luck on the sidelines. Rivers led the offense on drives of 12, 17, 11 and 15 plays that resulted in one touchdown and three field goals. The Bolts held the ball for over 38 ½ minutes of the game.
The Chargers defense also stepped up and held the Colts out of the endzone. Most impressive was the Chargers’ ability to pressure Luck, given what looks like a lack of personnel to do so. Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes stepped up and were able to get interior pressure on Luck. Meanwhile, the Chargers third down defense also stepped up, holding the second-ranked third down offense to 2 of 10 conversions on third down.
Most importantly though was the defense’s ability to hold off what appeared to be an imminent Colts comeback. Luck, who already has nine career come-from-behind wins, combined with the Chargers’ infamous fourth quarter collapses in recent history, seemed destined to continue the trend Monday night. However, San Diego’s defense forced a three-and-out with less than five minutes to play and sealed the win with a Derek Cox interception off a poorly thrown pass in the final seconds. The interception was San Diego’s first since the very first play from scrimmage of the season.
It looks like the Chargers have figured out their winning formula: control the clock on offense by sustaining long drives and allow their depleted depth-deficient defense to get a long rest so that they have the energy to fly to the ball every snap. Of course, executing this on a consistent basis is a whole other story, but it’s nice to see that the Chargers have a game plan in place that worked well against the Colts as well as against the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this season.
San Diego’s next game at Qualcomm Stadium will be Week 10 against the Redskins. Get Chargers tickets here.