Classic Games: 2007 Chargers vs. Colts, Sunday Night Football

There's a reason that this image was plastered on the front of the Chargers building until the day Antonio Cromartie was traded.

Let's go back five years. The San Diego Chargers are coming off a season where they went 14-2 and were the class of the NFL before losing in the first round of the playoffs. The finger-pointing between the General Manager and Head Coach led to the firing of Marty Schottenheimer.....a few weeks after the Offensive Coordinator and Defensive Coordinator of the 2004 Chargers had been given jobs elsewhere. Suddenly, there were a lot of holes to fill.

The General Manager and Owner finally settled on Norv Turner, who would be the Head Coach as well as the Offensive Coordinator, and dragged Ted Cottrell out of retirement to coach the defense. Things started rocky, with the team starting the season 1-3, before everything started clicking. The Chargers won 3 games, blowing out the Broncos (by 38), Raiders (by 14) and Texans (by 25). This was the team we remembered from 2006.

And just like that....Adrian Peterson happened....

315 yards. In a single game. 315 yards on 31 touches, coming out to 10.16 yards per touch. Adrian Peterson averaged a first down every time he touched the ball in that game. His 296 rushing yards (on 30 carries) is still the record for the most rushing yards in a single game. His 315 yards are the 4th most yards from scrimmage in an NFL game ever.

The players, the coaches, the city and the fans were crushed. The momentum was lost. This team was going nowhere. It was time to call Marty and see if he'd come back. Right?

The very next week, the Chargers defense was sure to get shredded again. They were playing against Peyton Manning and his high-flying circus act of an offense on Sunday Night Football.

The Chargers offense didn't show up. Philip Rivers completed about 50% of his passes for 104 yards, 2 interceptions and zero touchdowns. LaDainian Tomlinson had a respectable 97 yards on 25 touches, and ran for 1 touchdown, but that would never be enough to beat the Colts. They would need their defense and special teams to win the game, and did they ever.

Darren Sproles ran back both a kickoff and a punt for TDs. Let me point out how absurd that is: Darren Sproles touched the ball 4 times that game and scored touchdowns 2 of those times. He ended up in the end zone 50% of the time the ball got into his hands. That would've been the most incredible thing of the night if it weren't overshadowed by the defense.

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Someone had to have known what plays were coming. That's still the only way I can justify what happened.

Peyton Manning was intercepted six times. In one game. In 2006, the year before, Manning threw 9 interceptions all season. It is still the only time in Peyton's NFL career that he's thrown more than 4 interceptions in a single game (which he's done only 3 times in 200+ regular season games). This was unprecedented.

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Looking back at that game, you probably think the Chargers blew the Colts out, right? Wrong. Despite leading the game 23-0 at halftime, the Bolts ended up squeaking out a 23-21 victory that did two things.

First, it told the Chargers what their potential was. They already knew that with Rivers, Tomlinson, Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson that they had one of the best offenses in the league. Norv Turner could call plays, too, and they were learning that. This told them how good their defense was and how dangerous the special teams was. This was the game, after the Adrian Peterson debacle, that re-convinced them that they could win the Super Bowl in 2007.

Second, it taught them that they couldn't get passive. They got passive against the Vikings and paid for it with a loss. They learned to prepare better against the Colts, and it worked, but they almost lost it by getting passive in the second half. If they were going to be as good as the 2006 Chargers, they were going to need that killer instinct. They were going to need to stay aggressive, even when the victory seemed in hand.

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The San Diego Chargers won 8 of their next 9 games after this victory against the Colts. We'll talk about that final victory of the season, again against the Colts, next week.

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