The Chargers won the toss and deferred to the second half. Special teams got the Bolts off to a solid start by stopping the returner short of the 25. The Colts targeted their tight ends early on with success. Both Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle had receptions within the first three plays.
The Colts appeared to be able to pick up chunks of yards on every run. The Chargers were just completely overmatched at the line of scrimmage. Indianapolis eventually went away from what was working and tested Jason Verrett. They failed. That led to a field goal attempt that Adam Vinatieri converted.
The Chargers quickly went three and out. Melvin Gordon was stopped in the backfield. Hunter Henry put the offense in 3rd and manageable. Tyrell Williams dropped an easy first down that should have been a big play.
The second Colts drive was more of the same. Frank Gore continued to run over the Chargers’ front seven. Andrew Luck continued to have all day to throw. Verrett was tested again and beaten soundly by T.Y. Hilton. Manti Te’o suffered a non-contact injury that looked very bad. Manti’s replacement, Jatavis Brown, got hit in the back by the ball on the next play. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good as the incomplete pass brought up 4th down and another field goal attempt. Vinatieri converted again, but an unsportsmanlike penalty gave the Colts 15 yards and a first down. A few plays later, Gore scored easily behind a block by Doyle.
With Danny Woodhead done for the season, Gordon was on the field on 3rd downs. He made an excellent catch and run for a first down and kept the offense on the field. Somewhat unexpectedly, Sean McGrath and Dontrelle Inman also chipped in with first down receptions. A successful challenge by the Colts brought up a 3rd & short.
A bad Philip Rivers pass brought up a 4th and short. A pathetic, cowardly call by Mike McCoy brought out the kicker. Josh Lambo converted, at least.
Casey Hayward tried to bail out the coaching staff with an excellent interception and return to set up a 1st and goal from the six-yard line.
A bad holding penalty by D.J. Fluker moved the Chargers back to the 16. Rivers then missed a wide open Dexter McCluster on what should have been a touchdown. Ken Whisenhunt dialed up ANOTHER passing play and Rivers had to throw the ball away when nobody got open. This brought up a 3rd and long. Rivers was pressured immediately, bought time, but then still had to throw the ball away. Josh Lambo was called upon again and converted again.
The Colts defense again picked up where they left off by running the ball down the Chargers’ throats. The defense finally brought pressure with a Denzel Perryman blitz, but Verrett got flagged for holding. From there, the Colts could seemingly do no wrong. Every run and pass worked until Perryman ended their drive with a sack. Vinatieri then added a 32-yard field goal
A pair of Gordon runs, an Inman reception, and a big-gainer to Henry put the Chargers on the Colts’ side of the field. Travis Benjamin flashed his amazing acceleration to pick up another first down. Another poor throw by Rivers missed what should have been a huge play to Gordon. On the next play, Chris Hairston was late getting out of his stance and it resulted in a strip sack. Because that wasn’t enough, he then contacted the referee and drew a 15-yard penalty. It’s like he was just begging to be cut from the team.
Terrible coverage by Melvin Ingram and an ill-conceived zone defense had the Colts knocking on the door of the red zone in just a couple of plays. A Jatavis Brown strip and a long fumble return by Caraun Reid tied the game up in the blink of an eye.
The offense got rolling early with a 22-yard reception by Tyrell Williams. Another nice catch by Henry picked up a 1st down. Benjamin set up a short 2nd down on a screen pass. Williams converted another first down on a pretty catch and run that put the offense inside the 15. Dexter McCluster caught two passes including one on 3rd down to set up a 1st and goal from the 1. Gordon punched it in for the Chargers’ first offensive touchdown, and Lambo missed the extra point thanks to a block by Antonio Cromartie.
That whole drive was pure sex.— Richard Wade (@RichardWade) September 25, 2016
It really was, though.
The Colts came back out looking to see if they were still able to move the ball at will on the ground. Brown stopped him for his first negative run of the game. But it set up play action, and Hilton beat Verrett for a big gain. They picked on him again to set up a 3rd and short that Dwayne Allen converted after Luck was given all day to find him. And then they looked for Hilton on Verrett again. It worked again. On 3rd & goal from the 1, the Colts receiver clearly committed pass interference, but the referees flagged the Chargers defender instead. With a fresh set of downs, Turbin scored on a short run.
The Chargers were forced to punt after an inconsequential drive that featured a Benjamin drop on 3rd down that would have moved the chains. Another less than stellar punt set the Colts up with good field position.
A Colts holding penalty and an injury to their starting left guard put the Luck and the offense in a bad spot. A very long receiving touchdown was called back for offensive pass interference. A long run on 2 & 30 was undone by a holding penalty. On 2nd & 40, the Colts ran a meaningless 3-yard interior running play. On 3rd & 37, the Colts picked up a minimal gain on an underneath pass. Unfortunately, Perryman then went down with an unknown injury.
Benjamin muffed the subsequent punt and only an alert play by Verrett retained possession. He looked to be hurt on the play, though. A short reception by Derek Watt and a long catch and run by Gordon on a screen pass got the Chargers to midfield. Travis Benjamin ran past the Colts corner and caught a long pass. A stupid penalty by Rivers moved them back tot he 21. Henry got them back inside the 10 with a clean catch by the sideline. They then attempted three pass plays and never sniffed the end zone. Lambo put the Chargers back in front.
Good pressure on 1st and 2nd downs set up a 3rd & long. More pressure forced an incomplete pass. It was a quality series by the defense.
John Pagano did his damn thing on those 3 plays. Great calls, foot on the gas, guys getting pressure— Garrett Sisti (@GarrettSisti) September 25, 2016
With 6:38 left to play and a 2-point lead, the Chargers offense took the field again. Gordon picked up 2 on 1st down. Rivers scrambled for 2 more. Williams picked up the 1st on a slant. Another Gordon run and another Williams catch picked up another 1st down. The clock kept ticking down. A Colts injury stopped the action for a moment, but Gordon got things moving again with an 8-yard run. A 1-yard loss forced the Colts to burn a timeout. On 3rd & 3, Rivers missed Benjamin on a crossing route.
The Colts got the ball back needing only a field goal to win, 2:29 on the clock, and two timeouts and the two-minute warning to work with. On their first three plays, the Colts managed only three yards. A nice play by Dexter McCoil forced a 4th down. Thanks to a zone scheme by Pagano, Flowers was left one-on-one against T.Y. Hilton. It was no contest. Easy 4th down conversion. On the next play, Flowers appeared to be knocked unconscious as the Colts picked up 9 yards on a catch and run. This essentially forced the Chargers to gift the Colts one of their timeouts. On the very next play, T.Y. Hilton covered 63 yards for a touchdown. The Colts then lined up to for two, but they could not convert it.
Rivers took over on his own 25-yard line with 77 seconds and two timeouts to work with. The Chargers picked up 4 on 1st down, but gave it all back with a false start. Henry caught a pass and was running downfield, but he did not protect the ball. The Colts recovered the fumble.
The Colts ran the clock down to 7 seconds and punted. Thanks to a defensive penalty, the Chargers got to run one untimed down from their own 18. It amounted to nothing other than a weird footnote.