Yet, the San Diego Chargers managed to escape the on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions Indianapolis Colts with a 28-24 victory for a spot in the AFC Championship game at New England.
And it certainly wasn’t easy. In a loud, tough place to play, the Chargers had to rally with their second-string quarterback and running back and rely on their defense to stop the Colts twice in the final three minutes.
If ever a game dispelled myths and misconceptions about a team, this was it.
“There’s a perception around this league that we are front-runners,” San Diego coach Norv Turner said. “People think we play well when we get a lead or when we are playing a lesser team. But when we play an upper-level team or fall behind, the perception is that we aren’t good enough or tough enough to get it done.
“That’s not the case, and this game today was probably the gutsiest team effort that I have ever been around. We’re playing the defending Super Bowl champions on their home field. The crowd was roaring throughout. A number of difficult calls go against us. We have injuries to L.T. and our quarterback. Even with all of that, there was no lack of commitment or confidence on the sidelines.”
Rivers was sharp before his injury, which was a big reason why the Chargers’ finish was so surprising. He completed 14-of-19 passes for 264 yards with three touchdowns. He shook off a first-quarter interception and made impressive passes, including a sweet 30-yard score to Chris Chambers.
Rivers' last play was a 56-yard screen pass perfectly delivered to scat back Darren Sproles, which gave the Chargers a 21-17 lead on the last play of the third quarter. But a knee injury forced Rivers out, adding to an earlier knee to Tomlinson.
Turner didn't have to panic, though. With Billy Volek at quarterback and Michael Turner at running back, he had two of the NFL's most capable backups.
Volek was always viewed as a good option to have behind Steve McNair in Tennessee, but he hadn’t seen any meaningful action since the 2005 season. Here he was with the Chargers' season in his hands.
Volek would have none of that. He rolled out to his right and threw a 15-yard pass to Chris Chambers on 1st down and the game moved in the Chargers favor.
“I had no qualms about going in,” Volek said. “Norv told me I was going in and there was no special pep talk. When you haven’t played in a while it can be a little tough, but the minute you get your first hit or complete your first pass those butterflies disappear. The confidence level went to a whole different level when Chris caught that pass.”
From there the Chargers went on to complete an 8-play, 78-yard drive that culminated with Volek sneaking the ball over the goal line from less than a yard out with 4:50 to play. Between the pass to Chambers and the touchdown run was a 27-yard pass to rookie third-string tight end Legedu Naanee (We admit: We never heard of him either).
CSN: Brian Urlacher, who played 13 seasons for the Bears, announced his retirement from football Wenesday on his personal twitter account.
CSN: The Super Bowl's golden anniversary will be held in the Golden State. The new stadium, which opens in 2014, in Santa Clara will host Super Bowl L two years later, the NFL announced Tuesday.
2013 SNF Schedule
Check out the 2013 Sunday Night Football schedule.
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