Postgame Report: Chargers-Colts
Jan. 3: Bob, Jerome, and Matt recap a great game in San Diego, where the Chargers shocked the Colts to stay alive in the playoffs.
SAN DIEGO - Darren Sproles ran off the field clutching the game ball, leaving Peyton Manning to hang his head in frustration.
The San Diego Chargers outdid Manning for the second straight January, again turning to surprise stars to spark them along in the playoffs.
Given more playing time because of LaDainian Tomlinson’s groin injury, the speedy little Sproles scooted 22 yards for the winning score 6:20 into overtime and the Chargers beat the Colts 23-17 in an AFC wild-card game Saturday night.
Just like that, a Chargers team that sneaked into the playoffs at 8-8 eliminated the NFL’s hottest team a day after Manning won his third Associated Press NFL MVP award.
Also keeping the Chargers in the game was Mike Scifres, whose booming punts continually pinned the Colts deep in their territory. Scifres punted six times for an average of 52.7 yards, including a 67-yarder.
“I don’t know if you can dream a game like this,” Scifres said after the Chargers ended the Colts’ nine-game winning streak.
Sproles came up big on a night when the Chargers played the final 2½ quarters without Tomlinson, who stood on the sideline in obvious discomfort from what appears to be a serious groin injury.
Fifty years after the Baltimore Colts won the first overtime game in league history by the same score over the New York Giants for the NFL title, Indianapolis wasn’t so fortunate. It was victimized by Sproles, who rushed 23 times for 105 yards, caught five passes for 45 yards, had 106 yards on four kickoff returns and 72 on three punt runbacks.
“It’s disappointing to lose a playoff game,” said Manning, who two years ago led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory over the Chicago Bears. “We certainly had some chances to win, but give them credit. We had chances to put the game away, but we just didn’t do it.”
The Chargers (9-8) won the overtime toss. Indy’s Darrell Reid called heads, but referee Ron Winter’s flip came up tails. Sproles sent the Chargers into the second round of the playoffs, either at Tennessee or Pittsburgh, by finishing off the only series of overtime with his TD run around left end against an exhausted defense for the Colts (12-5).
San Diego’s winning drive was aided by two defensive holding calls, the second against Tim Jennings on third-and-8. On the next play, Colts linebacker Clint Session was whistled for grabbing Sproles’ facemask. Sproles scored on the next play, shedding a defender at the 5-yard line.
“You know, when your number is called, you have to be ready,” said Sproles, who earlier in the game fumbled into the end zone, with the Colts recovering.
“Right after that fumble, it was still kind of in my mind,” Sproles said. “I wanted that TD back to make up for the fumble.”
“We played hard till the end, but those guys played even harder all the way through the game,” Colts safety Bob Sanders said.
It was San Diego’s fifth straight win, and the Chargers needed the previous four victories to secure the AFC West title with an 8-8 record. San Diego was the ninth team to enter the playoffs with an 8-8 record and became just the third to win its opener. The Chargers had gone 0-5 against teams that made the playoffs, including a 23-20 loss to the Colts here on Nov. 23.
Last season, the Chargers pulled off a 28-24 upset at Indianapolis in the divisional round after Philip Rivers and Tomlinson both went out with knee injuries.
This was the fourth time the teams met in two seasons, and the sixth in five years. The Chargers have won four of the six.
San Diego got its only sack at a key time, when Tim Dobbins dropped Manning at the Colts 1 on third down with 2 minutes left, forcing a punt and giving the Chargers the ball at the Indy 38.
Nate Kaeding kicked a 26-yard field goal with 31 seconds left to force overtime.
PFT: Defensive end finally finds a new team in San Diego — and for a honey of a deal that would be worth a max of $13.35 million.
2013 SNF Schedule
Check out the 2013 Sunday Night Football schedule.
Latest from ProFootballTalk
Video: Football from NBC Sports
Chudzinski: 'Too early' to name a QB
Following Thursday's OTA, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski speaks to the media about his team’s brewing quarterback controversy. He feels the competition will aid in each QB’s progression as a passer, but he isn’t ready to name a starter for Week 1.
Check out some of the NFL cheerleaders from across the league.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Manning wins 3rd MVP award
Jan. 2: Manning says he truly accepts the MVP as a team award.
Dungy: End of the road?
Jan. 3: Tony Dungy talks with Al Michaels about his future and how likely he is to call it quits.
Dungy: Coaching legacy?
Jan. 3: Tony Dungy talks with Al Michaels about his legacy in the NFL and his fondest memories during his career.
Chargers 23, Colts 17
Check out the best photos from the Chargers' victory in San Diego.
Rivers, Gates play big roles in win
Jan. 3: Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates talk about the Chargers' win over the Colts in the first of the AFC wild card games.