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Sproles’ shoulders plenty big enough to carry Chargers

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by RaiderRay, Jan 4, 2009.

  1. RaiderRay

    RaiderRay RIP SD Chargers...Go Padres, Gulls, Ducks, Raiders Staff Member Administrator Podcaster

    Jun 20, 2005

    SAN DIEGO—Five things to carry home after the San Diego Chargers’ 23-17 overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Saturday’s AFC wild-card game:

    1. Darren to be great

    In a conversation with Chargers general manager A.J. Smith after the game, I was implored to look up Darren Sproles’ workload at Kansas State. Like plenty of you, I remember how good he was as a Wildcat. But the number of carries he had was pretty significant—887 in 39 games his final three years there, or 23 carries a game.

    Smith’s point was simple. He said the Chargers drafted him to do three things: run, catch the ball out of the backfield and return kicks and punts. He does all those things. But, Smith emphasized, don’t forget that this guy is a pretty good tailback.

    And the Colts likely will never forget how he carried the load in LaDainian Tomlinson’s absence on a chilly-for-San-Diego evening. His 328 all-purpose yards—third-best in NFL playoff history—stand out. But not as much as the way he responded to a fumble at the 1-yard line late in the third quarter.

    I asked him after the game if that lit a fire underneath him. “Yeah, it did,” he said with a smile. Proof positive: In the game’s remaining 23 minutes, Sproles had 163 yards, almost half his total yardage, on 15 touches.

    2. Run away

    Perhaps the best platform available for the successful MVP candidacy of Peyton Manning—besides playing through September and October behind a patchwork line with a science experiment for a knee—is the Colts’ running game. Or lack of one.

    Unlike the knee, or the line, this issue still hasn’t been fixed to any reasonable degree, which is pretty hard to fathom, given the threat the passing game poses. The first damning piece of evidence is how the Chargers spent just about every defensive snap, outside short yardage, in nickel and dime packages.

    The second smoking gun is how Indy handled short yardage. In the first quarter, on the second-and-goal from the 1, Manning shifted the offense into the shotgun and spread his tight ends out to create running room for Joseph Addai, who scored on the play. Then, on a third-and-1 in the second quarter, the club ran an end-around to tight end Dallas Clark to pick up a first down out of its goal-line set. And at the start of the third quarter, Addai was stoned on third-and-1, leading to an unsuccessful fourth-down play-action pass.

    More than anything else, that’s why Manning was sacked on fourth-and-2 on the Colts’ last significant possession.

    3. LT answers questions

    Perhaps the enduring image of Tomlinson’s 2007 season was the picture of a player huddled under an overcoat and shielded by a tinted visor.

    With the stakes—the AFC championship was on the line—so high. And with a teammate, Phillip Rivers, playing on a torn ACL. Truth be told, it may have been the first time Tomlinson had ever had his gumption for football questioned. It certainly bugged him.

    But if you’re to believe what was reported about LT on Saturday by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen—and after talking to some people, I have every reason to—never question No. 21 again. For him to play with a tendon that’s detached from his groin is, at least, admirable. As is the fact that his final two carries, a converted third down and a touchdown, came in short-yardage situation. Maybe he’s not Emmitt Smith. But he’s no Nancy, either.

    4. Pey-off

    Maybe the toughest thing to figure from this one was how badly Peyton Manning tailed off at the end.

    His brilliance was on display late in the third, when, through a non-verbal cue, Manning hustled his offense, which barely substituted at all the whole game, to the line. Reggie Wayne caught Antonio Cromartie sleeping, and from there, the 72-yard touchdown was academic. How many offenses can take advantage of a substitution like that? Probably one.

    But then, somehow, some way, everything changed for Indy. After the TD, Manning was 18-of-29 for 266 yards. Going forward, he was 7-of-13 for 44 yards, leading the Colts to just four more first downs with the game on the line.

    5. Charging up

    OK, the Chargers’ defense gets some credit for Manning’s fade, too. A secondary that, despite having three first-round cornerbacks, was a big reason for the Chargers being last in the AFC against the pass really stepped up.

    Part of it was coordinator Ron Rivera constantly crowding the line with pass rushers, disguising who was dropping and who was coming. But you have to trust your cover guys to do that, and Rivera clearly did.

    Yes, Antoine Cason, the rookie among those three corners, struggled against Indy rising star Anthony Gonzalez in the slot. But Cromartie and Quentin Jammer were flat-out studs on Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. Outside the gotcha 72-yard touchdown for Wayne, the Colts’ venerable duo combined for just four catches and 72 yards.

    And credit the Chargers, too, for tackling Clark in the open field. He caught seven passes, but was held to 33 yards.

    All told, Rivera was daring and creative. His players’ performance allowed him to be.
  2. WonderSlug

    WonderSlug Well-Known Member

    Sep 1, 2005
    HE was asked in one of the postgame interviews what he saw as he got that last handoff from Rivers.

    "A lot of open space"

  3. BoltsFanUK

    BoltsFanUK Well-Known Member

    Sep 12, 2006
    Sproles was an absolute beast in this game- 328 combined yards

    We have to resign him

    HEXEDBOLT Don't like it, lump it!!!

    Jul 11, 2006
    The little man's price tag just got larger.:bolt:

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