Everything was setting up for the Chargers to stumble over themselves yet again. With a chance to clinch a playoff spot on Monday night against the Colts, Los Angeles barely clinched a touchdown lead in the Week 16 prime-time finale. Star safety Derwin James was ejected early due to a hit illegal. And quarterback Justin Herbert fumbled to give Indianapolis momentum heading into the fourth quarter. It doesn’t matter. Because Nick Foles’ debut as the Colts’ last backup quarterback was the worst possible thing. Partying up front and getting enough production from Herbert down the stretch, Brandon Staley’s AFC West contender left Lucas Oil Stadium with a 20-3 victory and, more importantly, that coveted postseason ticket. .
Falling to 4-10-1 with their fifth straight loss under interim coach Jeff Saturday, the Colts kept things close for a while, but in the end they were no match for LA, which never trailed in contention.
Here are some additional points from the Chargers’ win on Monday night:
Why did the Chargers win?
They have someone who can throw the ball. On a night when Indy could have blew L.A.’s shot at a playoff berth were it not for their third quarterback playing ball behind a shoddy O-line from the get-go, the The Chargers got the “W” because their own call sign, Justin Herbert, delivered enough punches downfield. Austin Ekeler was vital once again, if not consistently on the ground, so it was Herbert’s laser that saved the day, feeding Keenan Allen (11 receptions, 104 yards) to keep LA knocking on the door. Brandon Staley’s defense was just as important, if not more, constantly going after Nick Foles and playing opportunistic ball in the secondary even after losing star safety Derwin James to an ejection in the first half. Six different players recorded a sack late in the night, while the corner duo of Asante Samuel Jr. and Michael Davis got away with it.
Why did the Colts lose?
The offensive line was once again iffy, giving up seven sacks and nine QB hits. But unfortunately nothing doomed them more than Nick Foles, whose big-play mentality was a good idea for the Colts’ revolving door under center, but whose timing and decision-making was shaky all night. When he wasn’t being gobbled up by the Los Angeles front, Foles too often tossed him to unintended targets outside the gate, gifting the Chargers three picks (and almost more). Matt Ryan or Sam Ehlinger might not have been much better, but they couldn’t have been much worse. It’s too bad, too, because the offensive meltdown wasted a solid night for the defense of Gus Bradley, who played fast and aggressive both up front and back.
The Colts held on, staying within 10 until late in the game, despite too many turnovers with the ball in their hands. Given a chance to get even closer, and maybe even redeem their sloppy offensive night, they lined up to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Chargers 12-yard line, kicking off the fourth quarter. But Nick Foles’ quarterback advance fell short, with Drue Tranquill stuffing the play, getting the ball back to Herbert and Co., who quickly went on a 12-play touchdown drive to seal the decision.
play of the game
It would have been even better if Keenan Allen had stayed in bounds, but this Herbert laser on a trick play helped LA extend their lead to 10-3 before halftime. He also confirmed that the Chargers QB have one of the best guns in the game:
The Chargers (9-6) will return home on New Year’s Day to host the Rams (5-10), who crushed the Broncos on Christmas Day, prompting Denver to fire coach Nathaniel Hackett. Meanwhile, the Colts (4-10-1) will hit the road for an interconference matchup with the Giants (8-6-1), who lost to the Vikings on Saturday but are looking to clinch one of the NFC Finals. wildcard points.