This is what the postseason is all about. It is about putting two great football teams on the field, squaring off for the right to advance closer to a world championship. On Saturday night the San Diego Chargers showed America why they have the heart of a champion. San Diego grinded out a thrilling 23-17 overtime victory propelling the once 8-8 ball club into the second round of the playoffs.
The Chargers had several opportunities to win this game in regulation, but constantly put themselves behind the eight ball. In the third quarter with the Chargers up 14-10, Peyton Manning found a wide open Reggie Wayne streaking down the sidelines for a 72 yard touchdown. The reason this was such an easy catch and run, had to do with the fact that San Diego corner back Antonio Cramartie was staring at the sideline, waiting for a signal from the coaches for a substituition. Manning snapped the ball, and found the distracted player and hit his man down the sideline.
Later, with San Diego charging toward a possible go-ahead touchdown, Phillip Rivers hit Darren Sproles in the flat for a seven yard gain to the Colts two yard line, but Sproles fumbled the ball. The ball rolled into the endzone for a touchback. It appeared on replay that Sproles may have been down, but it was not challenged by Norv Turner.
Turns out that it was good that Turner did not challenge, becuase the Colts decided to go into a proverbial shell offensively. When the Colts needed to be agressive, they were too conservative. After that fumble recovery, the Colts went three and out on their next drive. After, Phillip Rivers threw a costly interception in the endzone, the Colts moved the ball to the Chargers 46 yard line, but a holding penalty was callled backing Indianapolis up to their own 44 yard line. The Colts proceeded to punt the ball away.
Finally, after San Diego failed to move the ball into field goal range in the final 3:10, and had no choice but to punt the ball back to Indianapolis, the Colts took the opportunity to win the game and flushed it down the toilet. On third and two at their own eight yard line, Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore decided to put Manning in the shotgun with no running back in the back field. Result: Big Mistake. Manning was blitzed hard by Terry Dobbins and was sacked at the two yard line.
The Chargers then got the ball back with 1:48 to go in great field position after Sproles returned the punt 25 yards to the Colts 38 yard line. Rivers hit tight end Antonio Gates twice for gains of 11 yards each to move the ball to the Colts 16 yard line. On third down, Turner made a beautiful playcall, deciding to run the ball with Sproles who picked up eight more, forcing the Colts to call a time out with 34 seconds to play.
Nate Kaeding, who is not the most clutch kicker in the world, nailed the chip shot field goal to tie the game.
With 24 seconds to play, the Colts continued their peculiar play calling. Instead of taking a knee at their own 19 yard line and force OT, they decided to run four plays that got them absolutely nowhere. Nonethless the game was heading into OT.
In overtime, Sproles took over. The game MVP, touched the ball seven times, as the Chargers marched down the field for the game winning touchdown. Rivers hit Sproles in the flat on a key third and 11 for a 13 yard gain to get the ball to the Charger 37 yard line. Later in the drive, Indinapolis was called for a facemask penalty moving the ball to the Colts own 20 yard line. Then, Sproles took it in himself, as he dug through the Colts defense untouched into the endzone for the game-clinching touchdown. Sproles had 328 yard all purpose yards on the night. He was fantastic!
It was a classic ball game, between two red-hot teams. The Chargers have a five game winning streak and will move on to either Tennessee or Pittsburgh for the divisional playoff game.