Only one touchdown scored by the San Diego Chargers doesn’t mean their offense didn’t work well. Philip Rivers is looking completely different than season compared to the previous two campaigns, and he managed the game and the clock perfectly against a much better team in a non-conventional performance from what we’re used to seeing from the Chargers.
The key with Rivers is always to limit his turnovers, especially when trying to bounce back from three-interception performances like he had a week ago against the Raiders. He did put the ball in the air 33 times against the Colts, but everything seemed right this time, as his protection held strong against the Colts’ meager pass-rush, enabling to throw for 237 yards, a touchdown pass, leading to a 19-9 win.
The rest of the scoring belonged to Nick Novak with four field goals, including one with 1:55 to go, giving the Chargers a two-score lead, meaning the Colts had no chance and time left to catch up with them. They ran for 147 yards, getting 102 yards from Ryan Matthews, his first 100+ rushing game since December 2011.
The Chargers had seemingly endless drives that stopped Luck and the Colts from getting into any kind of rhythm, averaging 8 plays per drive, the 2nd-most by a team in a game this season, including 4 consecutive drives of at least 10 plays. The key was running and managing the clock, with over 38 minutes of possession, but it also had to do with Rivers throwing 0 interceptions and creating a special bond with rookie receiver Keenan Allen.
Allen caught nine passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, a 22-yard pass coming early in the second quarter, putting the Chargers in the lead for good. Rivers was 17-of-20 on passes traveling 5 or fewer yards downfield, including 7-of-7 when targeting Allen. Allen has now improved to 23 receptions for 332 yards and two touchdowns this season, as only DeAndre Hopkins and Tavon Austin have had more receptions than him among NFL rookies, although both of them were first round picks, while Allen dropped to the third round out of fear for his knee condition.
It’s hard to find quarterbacks more proud and slightly arrogant, willing to rub it in after wins than Rivers. All this week was about how the Chargers don’t have enough fans to fill the stadium and avoid a blackout and how good the Colts have been this season. That made it extra special for Rivers, who threw nine interceptions and was sacked 18 times by this time last season, compared to only five interceptions and 10 sacks this time around.
I wasn’t sure who the Colts were playing this week from all the ads I saw. We knew if we didn’t turn the ball over and we sustained drives, which we did — we had some 12-, 14-, 16-play drives — that we’d give ourselves a chance to win. We didn’t go into the game saying, ‘Let’s play ball control,’ we wanted to score as many points as we could. We didn’t score that many, but we did sustain drives. I thought Keenan Allen stepped up big. They were doubling Gatesy a lot, andDanny Woodhead stepped up big. The offensive line was great. That’s the way we need to be able to run the football. If we can mix the run in, we got a chance.
It’s hard to see the Chargers catching up with the Chiefs or Broncos, but there’s a completely different feeling to this season compared to the final Norv Turner years: a sense of beginning and heading in the right direction, instead of the depression and overall blaming game going on under the previous regime.