The Chargers defense forced the Colts to turn the ball over 5 times, coming one shy of tying the season-high for turnovers by this talented San Diego defense (6, vs Jaguars). After going four consecutive games without a single turnover, the Chargers now have a turnover in three consecutive games. Actually, they have 7 over the last 3 games.
The best thing about the turnovers is that they were created by every aspect of the team playing well. Kevin Burnett baited Peyton Manning into throwing his first interception, Antoine Cason caught one in the end zone with good coverage, others were created off of an excellent pass-rush. This might be the best all-around defense the Chargers have had in a long time.
The funny thing is, on Sunday morning I heard that the Chargers lead the league in sacks. I remember not being completely surprised by this news, they lead the league in everything it seems, but I was shocked because the Bolts' pass-rush hasn't seemed overly-dominating unless they were facing the Jags or Cardinals. You would think a team like the Packers, Giants, Steelers, Jets or Ravens would be #1. I double-checked, and sure enough...there are the Chargers at the top of the list, and after a night where they only technically sacked Manning once they are still #1.
Credit Ron Rivera for somehow getting the league's best pass-rush out of Shaun Phillips and a bunch of creativity.
2. The BFTB Meetup
The meetup was a wonderful success. We had about 10 people show up, everyone collected on their free drinks and good fun was had by all. Thanks to Wonko, Axion, I8EtoDunbar, jodes0405 and everyone else who showed up and made the experience a fun one. I'm thinking it might not be a terrible idea to do something similar for the Week 17 matchup against the Broncos, should that game mean anything.
3. Special Teams? SPECIAL TEAMS!
Was it Mike Scifres and Darren Sproles dominating the game? No, but it was about as good of a game for the Special Teams as you can imagine without getting incredibly lucky. Nate Kaeding made all 5 of his FGs, with his longest being from 50 yards out, and did a good enough job on kickoffs as well. Scifres pinned the Colts back inside their own 20 two of the three times he punted the ball, and good coverage kept Brandon James from doing much of anything in the return game.
The Special Teams seems to be getting better each week, as the Chargers have been adding players from around the league that are known as solid Special Teamers. Getting back guys like Larry English, Brandon Siler and Steve Gregory has helped, and getting back guys like Antonio Gates gives fresher legs to the guys behind him on the depth chart to be more effective on Special Teams. All in all, the weak spot on this team seems to be getting smaller and smaller.
4. Mike Tolbert
Hmmm, could we be looking at another Michael Turner situation? Turner is only signed through this season, although is a RFA under the current CBA rules next year. I've always thought that the Chargers would like a do-over, not so that they could pick Turner over LaDainian Tomlinson but because they realize that you need two strong RBs to compete in the NFL. I think the Chargers will be smart enough this time to realize, especially after this season, that Ryan Mathews is going to need a good backup that can be a change-of-pace while also filling in during injury.
Anyways, here is how Tolbert has done in the games Mathews has missed this year:
Jax: 16 carries, 82 yards, 2 TDs
@SEA: 17 carries, 73 yards
DEN: 25 carries, 111 yards, 1 TD
@IND: 26 carries, 103 yards, 1 TD
Not to put anyone down, but if Mathews was putting up those numbers the Chargers fanbase and ESPN and everyone else would be going gaga over him. Mike Tolbert does it and it almost seems like "Yeah, that guy is good, but just wait until Mathews is back!" Look, I'm as excited about Mathews and this tandem as the next guy....but Mike Tolbert, the guy who was a surprise starter at FB last season and who was a bit of a surprise to make the team the year before, is turning out to be an upgrade over Tomlinson last year. He's running like he's a top 10 RB in the league and is giving the offense the balance it's always wanted. He deserves some big-time notoriety for that.
It's amazing how big of a deal Injury Reports become this late in the season, but with injuries adding up on each team it's an important factor heading into each game. The biggest injury news in this game is that Antonio Gates played, and led the team in receiving, as did Legedu Naanee and Malcom Floyd. If Gates feels good enough to practice this week, it's a great sign for him playing for the rest of the season...which changes the dynamic of each late-season game.
Stephen Cooper, who is quietly having a very good season and had one of his trademark great games against the Colts last night, limped off the field in the 4th quarter. Outside of that and Vincent Jackson's fake calf injury (kidding!), the team seems to be returning home relatively healthy.