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Chargers corral Colts, keep playoff hopes alive

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Dec 18, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a href="http://www.chargers.com/news/headline_detail.cfm?news_key=2483" target="_blank">Chargers.com</a>

    <img src="http://bolttalk.com/images/don.jpg" alt="Don and the Guys" />

    By Casey Pearce

    The collective "pop" heard round the football world Sunday was not the Chargers' playoffs hopes bursting. It was the 1972 Miami Dolphins making their annual toast.

    Thanks to the Bolts, the Dolphins maintained their status as the only team in NFL history to record a perfect season. The Chargers dealt the Indianapolis Colts their first loss of the season Sunday with a dramatic 26-17 win at the RCA Dome.

    "I spoke with (former Dolphins Head Coach) Don Shula right after the game," Schottenheimer said. "He congratulated me on the victory. The fans got their money's worth. I thought it was going to come down to the end, and it did."

    It was a game that was eerily similar to the one that the Chargers and Colts played last December in the same building. San Diego began by keeping Peyton Manning and Company in the one place they couldn't hurt them – on the sideline. The Chargers ran 38 plays in the first half while Manning took just 25 snaps. The Bolts also racked up 249 yards of total offense in the opening two quarters compared to Indianapolis' 94.

    When the Colts did have the ball, they found little time or room to work with. Aside from a 13-play second-quarter drive, Indy collected just one first down in the opening half.

    That 79-yard drive resulted in no points after Donnie Edwards and Drayton Florence stopped Reggie Wayne at the one yard line and Shawne Merriman sniffed out a Manning bootleg on the ensuing 4th down attempt.

    By the time the teams headed to the locker room, Keenan McCardell had celebrated his career-high ninth touchdown catch, a 29-yard strike from Drew Brees, and Nate Kaeding had cashed in on a pair of field goals to give the Chargers a 13-0 halftime lead.

    "When you look at them on film, they play soft underneath and try to keep everything in front of them," Brees said. "We dinked and dunked them a bit and then took our shots. We had some success with it."

    Just like a year ago, the Colts responded to San Diego's dominant opening half by putting up points in a hurry. Kaeding nailed a 48-yard kick before the Colts rallied for a 32-yard Mike Vanderjagt field goal that put them on the board.

    What had become a docile RCA Dome crowd was given new life when linebacker Gary Brackett intercepted Brees midway through the third quarter. After a 25-yard pass from Manning to Marvin Harrison, James plunged into the end zone from a yard out to make it a 16-10 contest.

    Moments later, San Diego's lead had evaporated. Brees fumbled after being sacked by Dwight Freeney. The Colts recovered at the Chargers' four yard line, and three plays later Manning hooked up with Dallas Clark to give Indy their first lead of the day at 17-16.

    But the Bolts were far from finished. Pinned deep in their own end zone, Brees hit McCardell for a 54-yard gain that set up a 49-yard field goal by Kaeding. The clutch kick allowed the Chargers to reclaim the lead at 19-17.

    On the ensuing kickoff, linebacker Matt Wilhelm continued his recent playmaking ways, forcing Dominic Rhodes to fumble. Terrence Kiel recovered, the possession was short-lived.

    Trying to seal the game, Brees lofted a pass into the end zone, but the throw sailed out of Reche Caldwell's reach and landed in the hands of Indy's Nick Harper.

    Like they had all day, the Chargers defense held. Instead of sending Vanderjagt out for what would have been a 55-yard field goal, the Colts punted, and Michael Turner made them pay.

    Two plays into San Diego's drive, Turner bounced outside and jolted down the Colts' sideline. Eighty-three yards later, he stood celebrating his game-clinching touchdown run. A Quentin Jammer interception sealed the deal on Indianapolis' ensuing possession.

    "The defense had done their part," Brees said. "It was time for us to make something happen. Michael responded and gave us a big one."

    LaDainian Tomlinson had a productive afternoon, rushing 24 times for 76 yards, but his sore ribs led Schottenheimer to give Turner some time late. It was a wise decision.

    "I knew he was going to break one 83 yards," Schottenheimer joked of his decision. "LT is going to be okay, but we got Michael in there and he did a terrific job."

    Turner finished the day with 113 yards on eight carries. Despite the two interceptions, Brees completed 66 percent of his passes (22-for-33) and tossed for 255 yards on the day. Antonio Gates had a team-high six receptions, while McCardell's three grabs went for 88 yards.

    "It's been a theme of all of our wins," McCardell said. "We get everyone involved. We've said it all season, you can't try to pick one guy to stop because the next guy will get you."

    James became the latest star back to be bottled up by San Diego's top-ranked run defense. The All-Pro managed just 25 yards on 13 carries as the Colts netted just 14 yards on the ground.

    Merriman had perhaps his best game as a pro, finishing with seven tackles. He was credited with two sacks as got Manning by himself once and shared a pair with Igor Olshansky.

    "Shawne plays with tremendous power," Schottenheimer said. "You saw that today. He really came through for us."

    The Chargers didn't get any help in the playoff race Sunday, no one in their locker room seemed to have any feeling about Pittsburgh nor Jacksonville's wins.

    "We controlled what we could today by pulling out a huge victory," Schottenheimer said. "We're still going to try to win the last two and see if we get invited when it's over. That's all we can do."

    Their next opportunity will come on a short week as the Bolts travel to Kansas City for a Christmas Eve contest next Saturday.
     

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