Colts vs. Chargers: Takeaways from San Diego's 19-9 Win over Indianapolis
The San Diego Chargers sported their coveted powder blues on Monday Night Football and didn't disappoint in what had to be considered an upset of one of the AFC's top teams so far this season.
The Chargers stopped Andrew Luck from reaching the end zone for four quarters, and Philip Rivers seemingly rebounded from the bad night he had in Oakland last Sunday. It was an impressive display of perseverance by a team that has been troubled on both sides of the ball with finishing games, but this was an all-out team effort to the end.
There was a lot to gather from Monday's win and even more to appreciate for Chargers fans. Here are takeaways from San Diego's much-needed win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Defense Doesn't Allow an Offensive Touchdown to Colts
Coming into the matchup with Indianapolis, the Chargers defense had coughed up more than 400 yards and 25.8 points a game to opposing offenses.
The Colts offense, meanwhile, had burned defenses for a little more than 362 yards and 27.8 points a game—fourth-best in the NFL.
Before the game even started, this was a mismatch in the making, and the stats couldn't have been any more wrong after the game concluded. The Chargers surrendered just three field goals to the high-powered Colts' offense and Andrew Luck was held to 202 yards passing and an interception.
What San Diego was able to do to Chuck Pagano's offense is mind-boggling, considering the type of numbers previous teams had put up, especially in the passing game. On top of that, the Chargers were down two starters in Donald Butler and Jarret Johnson.
John Pagano got the best of his brother on Monday night, as his defense held the Colts to 274 yards of total offense and two of 10 on third down. The pass rush was exceptionally good, despite getting to Luck just once as it forced him to hurry his throws.
We saw a lot of dropped passes by Indy's receivers, but credit is due to this defense to come up with such a big performance when the Chargers needed it most.
Secondary Stuns T.Y. Hilton, Slows Reggie Wayne
T.Y. Hilton went off for 140 yards receiving and two touchdowns against the Seattle Seahawks' secondary, but the Colts' receiver was held to five catches for 43 yards against the Chargers.
Even the great Reggie Wayne, who caught his 1,000th reception against the Chargers, was slowed down by San Diego's secondary and finished with five catches for 88 yards. It was a rough night for the Indianapolis offense with all the drops and miscues, but this secondary finally got it done for the Chargers.
Opposing quarterbacks were averaging more than 280 yards against the San Diego secondary, and yet, Luck was held to 202 yards passing.
Manti Te'o Steps Up, Calls Plays
With Donald Butler out, Manti Te'o had the added responsibility of calling the defensive plays on the field in addition to playing well in just his third regular-season game. Te'o, not surprisingly, handled his duties as a leader and had a solid night with five tackles on defense.
The road has been long for San Diego's second-round pick after dealing with a foot injury early on, but the wait has been worth it for the Chargers. Te'o has stepped into a starting role without hesitation and has performed as expected.
Defensive Line Provides Pressure
The best way to disrupt a potent passing game is to rattle its quarterback, especially one in just his second year.
Luck, while he's been brilliant as of late, had the added challenge of making plays with Kendall Reyes and Corey Liuget right in his face. The defense, as a whole, was tremendous, but John Pagano's play calls involving the D-line couldn't have gone any more right.
The pressure was there all night with different blitzes and coverages, and Luck clearly got frazzled because it ended up being one of his weakest performances of the year.
Danny Woodhead Does It All
Danny Woodhead has really come into his own with the Chargers, but his presence in the San Diego offense has made him into a greater asset than his days with New England.
Woodhead finished with 37 yards rushing and 47 receiving on Monday night. The former Patriot found holes in the running game, picked up first downs and helped move the chains as a receiver.
We keep hearing about the comparisons to Darren Sproles in his Charger days, but Woodhead has really made a name for himself in this offense, and he has more than lived up to what was expected from him when he was signed in the offseason.
The Chargers don't have a typical offense built around No. 1 receivers and a strong running game, but that has benefited Woodhead, who excels in both those areas.
Ryan Mathews with a Much-Needed Performance
Ryan Mathews has been in and out of the dog house for San Diego with mistakes and lackluster outings this season, but the former first-round pick may have gotten himself out again with a 100-plus-yard game against the Colts on Monday.
Mathews carried the ball 22 times and averaged 4.6 yards, but he still made Mike McCoy want to pull his hair out on the sideline.
In the fourth quarter, Mathews was given the ball with the plan for him to stay in bounds and run some time off the clock, but for whatever reason, Mathews allowed himself to get out of bounds and stop the clock in a one-possession game.
It's mistakes like these that earn Mathews trips to the dog house, but if he can run the ball like he did against Indianapolis then at least he's showing potential. Mathews really needs performances like these to save his career with the Chargers, keeping in mind that Tom Telesco was not the man who drafted him.
A Run Game Is Found...for Now
The Chargers were averaging a little more than 91 yards a game on the season before Monday night's game, and the need for a running game was especially warranted against a run defense that ranked near the bottom in yards allowed (129).
The stats didn't lie in this instance as the Chargers managed to come away with 147 yards rushing in the win over Indianapolis. The run game is something the offense has been missing all year, and now that we've seen the Chargers are capable of having one it's time to start implementing it week after week.
Nick Novak Clutch
How clutch has Nick Novak been this season? Novak has made all but two of his field goals on the year, with one of those being blocked, and he's now hit two field goals that essentially picked up the victory for San Diego late in games.
This is exactly what we needed to know about Novak after he signed a long-term deal. Can he hit those pivotal field goals late in the game with all the pressure? Does he have ice water in his veins, or is he just another Nate Kaeding when it comes to the moment of truth?
So far, it's looking like Novak is the clutch kicker San Diego has been looking for, and if a postseason run were to ensue, this is the type of player you want lining up for the game-winner.
Keenan Allen Stepping into the No. 1 Receiver Role
Keenan Allen now has back-to-back games with more than 100 yards receiving (both of which he has scored in). The third-round pick has been targeted more often by Philip Rivers as of late, and Allen hasn't shied away from making big plays in crucial moments.
When the season started, it was difficult to picture Allen as one day becoming the Chargers' No. 1 receiver, but injuries have forced him and Vincent Brown into leading roles in the passing game. Brown has shown promise this season as well, but Allen broke out against the Colts.
Not only did Allen have the game's only touchdown, but the former Cal Bear also helped decimate the Colts' secondary for nine catches and 107 yards. Is is about time to consider him a legitimate No. 1 receiver?