Sunday, January 13, 2008

Colts Get De-Charged!

If I had told you that at the end of the day, one Manning would be playing in a NFL divisional championship game next weekend you probably wouldn't have been at all surprised. If I told you that Manning would not be named Peyton, everyone probably would have been shocked as that would have meant that both of today's NFL playoff games were won by the underdogs. Well, that's precisely what happened!

In the early game between the San Diego Chargers and the Indianapolis Colts, both offenses pretty much moved the ball at will against the opposing defenses. The only thing that really stopped either team were turnovers. The Colts took an early 7-0 lead on a 25 yard pass from Manning to Dallas Clark. The Chargers then put together their own drive, but it was thwarted by the Colts as Kevin Hayden intercepted a Philip Rivers pass at the Colts 24 yard line. Manning drove the Colts down the field on their ensuing possession, connecting on a 17 yard pass to Marvin Harrison. Unfortunately for the Colts, Harrison was still rusty from not playing the second half of the season, and he fumbled the ball as he went down. The Chargers recovered, and from there on we had a game.

The Chargers took full advantage of that miscue, scoring on a 14 yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson to tie the game 7-7 with 8:38 to play in the second quarter. The score came at a cost to the Chargers though as they lost RB LaDainian Tomlinson for the rest of the game after he injured one of his knees on an eight yard run, two plays prior to that score. The Colts would settle for a 46 yard Adam Vinatieri field goal on their next possession to take a 10-7 lead. The Chargers drove down the field, and kicker Nate Kaeding had a long field goal attempt of his own. Kaeding's 48 yard attempt started right, hooked left, but only enough to clang high off the right upright for a miss. Manning drove the Colts downfield again as the half closed, but he was intercepted by Antonio Cromartie on a tipped ball deep in Chargers territory to thwart another threat.

The second half of the game went back and forth. Rivers drove the Chargers down the field 83 yards on eight plays, capped by a 30 yard pass to Chris Chambers for a 14-10 Chargers lead. The Colts stormed right back down the field, driving to the Chargers three yard line. On a third down and goal play, Manning tossed a pass to RB Kenton Keith, but the ball went right though Keith's hands and into the waiting arms of Charger safety Eric Weddle. The Chargers went three-and-out with their ensuing drive, and with 5:55 to play in the third quarter, we saw our first punt of the game. The Colts took over at the 50 yard line. Manning drove the Colts six plays and into the end zone on a 9-yard pass to Reggie Wayne at the 2:53 mark for a 17-14 lead. The Chargers came right back though, as a short pass from Rivers to Darren Sproles turned into a 56 yard touchdown as time expired in the period to give the visitors a 21-17 lead. For the second time in the game, a touchdown drive would prove costly to the Chargers, as Rivers limped off the field in obvious pain as the play was completed. As with Tomlinson, he would not return.

The fourth quarter began oddly, as both teams went three plays and out on their respective first possessions. The Colts then took the lead again as Manning hit Anthony Gonzales with a pass on the left side. Gonzales eluded a tackle and then barely avoided stepping out of bounds before going 55 yards for a score. Trailing 24-21, Billy Volek took over the reins at QB for the Chargers and did very admirably, completing all three passes he attempted and then scoring on a one yard plunge with 4:50 to play to give the Chargers a 28-24 lead. Once again Manning and the Colts would quickly drive down the field, getting to the Chargers nine yard line with 2:51 to play. The Colts could only manage to gain two yards in their next four plays, turning the ball over on downs. The Chargers went three and out, and Colts had one last chance, taking over at their own 32 yard line with 1:30 to play. Manning could not move the Colts though as a pass to Dallas Clark fell incomplete with 58 seconds to play. With that two kneeldowns followed and the Chargers had their improbable win, and now an opportunity to get revenge against the same New England Patriots team which knocked them out of the playoffs last season.

For the Colts, it was a tough loss, and it's also possibly going to be the last game that the great Tony Dungy coaches for them. Four times they got deep into Chargers territory and did not produce a point - that was the difference in the game today. As I said prior to the game, the team that took care of the ball was probably going to win. Unfortunately for me, I didn't correctly predict which team would do a better job of that in this game. Regardless, I'll be cheering on the Bolts as they try to ruin the Patriots' perfect season.


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