NFL Nation: 2013 Week 6 IND at SDG

Keenan AllenAP Photo/Lenny IgnelziRookie receiver Keenan Allen had nine catches for 107 yards and a TD on "Monday Night Football."

SAN DIEGO -- Want to hear something scary?

At least for opposing defenses.

San Diego Chargers rookie receiver Keenan Allen said there’s still room for improvement after scorching the Indianapolis Colts’ secondary on nine receptions for 107 yards, including a 22-yard reception for a score in his team’s convincing 19-9 win on Monday night.

“I’m still a rookie,” Allen said, smiling. “But yeah, I’m definitely trying to grow and develop as a player. I’m just taking it all day by day and trying to gain confidence.”

With fellow receiver Malcolm Floyd on injured reserve with a season-ending neck injury, Allen has stepped in nicely and earned Philip Rivers' trust.

In just six short games, Allen is developing into a No. 1 receiver for the Chargers, someone who can be counted on to create impact plays on a weekly basis.

“We just have to sustain it now,” Rivers said. “Sustain the confidence, the trust and the consistency. It may be a four-catch week next week, but his play is going to be key -- being there when his number is called.”

Through six games, Allen has made his mark. He’s totaled 23 receptions for 332 yards and two touchdowns. Only DeAndre Hopkins (25) and Tavon Austin (24) have more receptions than Allen among rookie receivers, but both of those players were drafted in the first round.

Allen was considered a first-round talent but tumbled down the draft board because of NFL teams’ concerns about a posterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered during his final season at Cal.

Allen said he uses that as motivation.

“I think so,” he said. “A lot of teams didn’t want to take a chance on me because of my knee. I wasn’t really concerned about my knee, but it happened, so I just try and keep playing ball.”

At 6-foot-2 and 211 pounds, teammates say Allen is faster than he looks. His bigger body helps him create separation against smaller defensive backs. But he also can make defenders miss after the catch, which contributes to his 14.4 yard-per-catch average.

“He’s definitely is deceiving, his speed,” San Diego cornerback Shareece Wright said. “And he has more short-area quickness -- getting off the line he’s really quick. He’s not a heavy dude; he’s like a long, not heavy, but not skinny guy.”

So what other receiver does Allen compare to?

“He’s really unique,” Wright said. “He has that long torso like a track athlete. He’s not a Malcom Floyd. He’s not a Vincent Brown. He’s not a Danario Alexander. He’s just kind of his own dude. He’s Keenan Allen.”

Rivers said Allen’s 22-yard touchdown was another confidence-building catch-and-throw between the young receiver and a veteran quarterback. Allen wasn’t the primary read on the play, but Rivers saw a way to get the ball to Allen in the back of the end zone, and, fortunately, Allen saw the same thing.

“The safety, he drove on Gates and got too far down the field, and Philip threw it over his head, and he couldn’t come back to it, and I just tried to run up under it,” Allen said.

Said Rivers: “Those are the kind of trust-building plays that you have to make. You don’t make that play until you make that play. That doesn’t come up like that ever in practice. So you don’t really know until you throw it -- 'Is he thinking what I’m thinking?' And then when you make it, you’re like, ‘All right, check mark on that.’ You build confidence that way, by making plays in games like you did today.”


Colts defense fails to make the stops

October, 15, 2013
Keenan AllenDonald Miralle/Getty ImagesThe Indianapolis defense could not get off the field, as the Chargers controlled the ball for almost two-thirds of the game.
SAN DIEGO -- The Indianapolis Colts' defensive unit has been in a good mood inside the locker room after most games this season.

That wasn't the case at Qualcomm Stadium on Monday night.

There was lots of talking among each other with voices lowered more than 45 minutes after the Colts' 19-9 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

The Colts had pushed the “bend, but don’t break” mind frame most of this season. That style finally caught up to them against the Chargers, and they can only blame themselves.

Penalties to give the Chargers first downs. Quarterback Philip Rivers making the necessary throw to keep a drive going. Running back Ryan Mathews finding a crease in the defense to run for 15 yards.

“We were shooting ourselves in the foot,” Colts defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said. “We were getting the looks we wanted in every area, but we weren’t executing. It was a good example of not executing against a good quarterback. You were only going to get a look one time, and once that one opportunity was gone, they were going with it.”

Controlling the line of scrimmage and getting off the field on third down to give quarterback Andrew Luck plenty of time on the field is what the Colts have talked about on a regular basis.

They failed to accomplish their goal.

The Chargers were 7-of-14 on third down and ran for 147 yards, including 102 from Mathews.

Stopping the run didn’t suddenly become a problem on Monday.

The Colts have allowed 246 yards rushing between the tackles in their past two games. That total is only a yard less than they allowed in the first four games of the season.

“The first thing we always say is control the line of scrimmage,” Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. “They were able to run, but as a unit we have to play better. That’s what it is. We set our standard high and we didn’t play up to that.”

Not making the necessary stops allowed San Diego to control the clock. The Chargers had possession for 38 minutes and 31 seconds, keeping Luck watching on the sideline. The Colts gave up first downs on plays of at least 10 yards on third down twice and were called for penalties on third down twice.

“We couldn’t get off the field,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We held them to a touchdown and then forced the field goals, but time of possession, that just killed us.”

You knew the Colts were in for a long night when Rivers was being lauded.

[+] EnlargeRyan Mathews
AP Photo/Denis PoroyUntil Monday night, Ryan Mathews had not rushed for more than 100 yards since October 2011.
The San Diego quarterback isn’t mobile like Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick or Seattle’s Russell Wilson.

Rivers is a pocket-passer. That meant Robert Mathis should have been able to add several sacks to his total, right?


Mathis knew that. That’s why he spent most of last week talking about how dangerous Rivers is. The Chargers quarterback is now 4-0 against the Colts in the regular season.

Rivers kept the Colts off balance by constantly changing up his snap count, and he made quick throws against the sixth-best pass defense in the league.

Rivers was 22-of-33 for 237 yards and was sacked only twice. He didn’t even have to force the ball to tight end Antonio Gates. Receiver Keenan Allen was Rivers’ go-to target. He had nine catches for 107 yards.

“Philip Rivers strikes again,” Mathis said. “I’ve been around him long enough and I know that’s what he’s capable of. We weren’t able to get to him enough, and he converted those critical third downs. He has that clock that all good quarterbacks have. He was able to get it out there.”

Don’t worry, the Colts only have to face quarterback Peyton Manning on Sunday. Yes, the former Colt who is on pace to rewrite the record books this season.

“You have to make plays,” Jean Francois said. “If you don’t do it against quarterbacks like Rivers, and next week you know who we’re playing, they can jump on you. We were frustrated because we know we were doing it ourselves. They’re a good team, hats off to them.”
SAN DIEGO -- Observed in the locker room after the San Diego Chargers 19-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Novak on the money: San Diego kicker Nick Novak finished 4-for-4 on field goals, including a season-long 50-yarder with 1:22 remaining to seal the win. Novak said he received an extra boost trying to match kicks with one of the best clutch kickers in the game in Indianapolis' Adam Vinatieri, who finished 3-for-3.

“I’m a big Rocky fan,” Novak said. “So I just try to keep that eye of the tiger, keep that focus mentality where I come through for the team and do my job. Vinatieri was doing the same thing. Even going against a guy like Vinatieri, I try to lift my game and match him kick for kick. He’s a competitor, and I love that.”

Mathews hits century mark: For the first time since a Dec. 11, 2011, contest against Buffalo when he rushed for 114 yards, San Diego running back Ryan Mathews topped the 100-yard mark in a regular-season game. Mathews finished with 102 yards on 22 carries. He said breaking the 100-yard mark still means something.

“You want to reach that peak as often as you can,” Mathews said. “I just have to give all the credit to my O-line. They did a great job tonight, just pushing guys out of the way and opening up those holes.”

San Diego coach Mike McCoy said his team went into Monday’s contest against Indianapolis focused on running the football after finishing with just 36 rushing yards against Oakland last week.

“Everyone took it to heart how we ran the football last week, which was poor, to say the least,” McCoy said. “I think we averaged 1.7 [yards] a rush last week. It’s unacceptable. The coaches answered the challenge. And we put it out there that we’ve got to run the football better.”

Another turning point? San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers felt Monday night’s game could be a turning point for this team, putting them back into playoff contention, or in evaluation mode for next year.

But San Diego players said the same thing after a big win over Dallas two weeks ago, but then lost to an undermanned Oakland team a week later. So what makes this game different?

“It definitely can, but now we’ve got to see where it turns,” Rivers said. “We started in the right direction, and we’ve got to make it turn that way. This was a big team win. I had the feeling that this was kind of an old-school NFL win, in the sense that we played great defense and we didn’t turn the ball over. We weren’t anything great offensively, but we didn’t turn it over. And we got points at the end of those drives.”

Rapid Reaction: San Diego Chargers

October, 14, 2013

SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the San Diego Chargers' 19-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

What it means: The Chargers' roller coaster of a season continues, as San Diego rebounds from a disappointing loss to the AFC West rival Oakland Raiders last week to defeat one of the best teams in the NFL in the Colts, controlling the tempo for most of the game. At 3-3 overall, the Chargers jumped back into the AFC playoff hunt.

Ground McCoy: Known for his pass-first approach, San Diego coach Mike McCoy let the ground game lead the way for the Chargers offensively. After rushing for just 32 yards against Oakland last week, the Chargers ground out 147 rushing yards. Ryan Mathews led the charge with his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, totaling 102 yards on 22 carries. San Diego's ability to sustain a running game led to a 38:31 to 21:29 advantage in time of possession.

Stock watch: Playing with two frontline players out in linebackers Donald Butler (groin) and Jarret Johnson (hamstring), San Diego's much-maligned defense played well, holding Indianapolis to 2-for-10 on third downs and just 267 total yards. The Colts averaged 27.8 points a contest heading into Monday's contest, but the Chargers held them to just nine. Cornerback Derek Cox capped the night with the Chargers' first interception since the team's first defensive play of the season by defensive tackle Cam Thomas.

Keenan Allen time: Watch out Antonio Gates, because San Diego rookie receiver Keenan Allen is developing into Philip Rivers' favorite target right before our eyes. He was targeted a team-high 12 times, finishing with a career-high nine catches for 107 yards, including a 22-yard reception for a score.

What's next: The Chargers hit the road, travelling to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars on Sunday for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff time.

Rapid Reaction: Indianapolis Colts

October, 14, 2013

SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 19-9 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

What it means: The Colts hurt themselves, and you can't point the finger at quarterback Andrew Luck, either. It’s hard to keep drives going when the receivers aren’t catching passes. Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey got it started when he dropped what should have been a touchdown pass down the right sideline. T.Y. Hilton then dropped a pass. It really became contagious after that. Tight end Coby Fleener had two drops, including one that he could have possibly scored on. You know things were going bad when Reggie Wayne, who caught his 1,000th pass, even dropped a pass that would have given the Colts a first down. That was only the offensive side of the ball. The defense had a difficult time getting Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers off the field. The Chargers had the ball for 38 minutes, 31 seconds and rushed for 147 yards.

Stock watch: The Colts suffered a major blow when linebacker Jerrell Freeman, the team’s leading tackler, left the game in the second half with a concussion. Freeman’s absence was notable because the Chargers wisely picked on Freeman’s replacement, Mario Harvey, time and time again. Freeman will have to pass the NFL’s concussion protocol test in order to be on the field against the Denver Broncos this weekend.

Silent rushing attack: The Colts entered the game as the league’s fourth-best rushing team. They didn’t look like it at Qualcomm Stadium, though. Indianapolis ran for only 74 yards, well below their season average of 142 yards a game. It’s not like the Colts were facing one of the top run defenses in the league, either. The Chargers entered the game giving up 117.2 yards a game on the ground.

What’s next: The biggest game of the NFL season will be at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis when Peyton Manning, a fixture in the Colts organization for 14 seasons, returns for the first time with the undefeated Denver Broncos (6-0).
SAN DIEGO -- Ken Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers, says his offense shouldn’t be surprised by anything the Indianapolis Colts do defensively in Monday’s matchup here at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Colts, led by defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, and more important, defensive-minded head coach Chuck Pagano, run a similar style 3-4 defensive front as little brother John Pagano, defensive coordinator for the Chargers.

“There are some similarities,” Whisenhunt said. “When you watch tape, you’ll see some things and say, ‘Hey I recognize that.’ But it’s different players. They run some things differently and when you get into some of the different varieties of it, whether it’s the sub packages, there are differences.

“But there’s no question that it helps that we’ve been able to go against the base defense when we’re going against Pags [John Pagano]. John [Pagano] does a nice job with our guys as far as what we see and that’ll help.”

While the schemes may be similar, the Colts pose more of a threat on defense because of the personnel on the side of the ball, including the NFL’s leading sack man Robert Mathis (9.5 sacks), along with ball-hawking cornreback Darius Butler (2 interceptions, one returned for a TD).

So the Chargers will have to do a much better job protecting the football than they accomplished against the Raiders last week, which leads to the first thing I’ll be looking for in tonight’s contest.

1. Ball security: Through five games, Indianapolis has forced 10 turnovers, including seven interceptions. The Colts forced just 15 turnovers all of last season, so this year’s defense is doing a much better job getting after the football. The Chargers turned it over five times against Oakland last week. If San Diego has a repeat performance, this game could be over by halftime.

2. Run the football: Yes, it would be great to see Philip Rivers sling the rock and put up another 400-yard passing day, right? Wrong. The Chargers ran for a paltry 32 yards last week. That’s not going to get it done. If Ryan Mathews is healthy, he should get at least 15 touches to keep the Colts’ defense honest.

3. Wrap-up: Indianapolis is in the top five in the league in rushing, averaging 142 rushing yards a contest. They’ve got a new toy in running back Trent Richardson, and they plan on using him. The Chargers are only giving up 117 yards a contest. It will be important for Corey Liuget, Cam Thomas and Kendall Reyes to play tough up front defensively, and for the back end of San Diego’s defense to make sure tackles in open space.

4. Make a play on defense: It’s been five games, and San Diego’s secondary has yet to haul in an interception. Defensive tackle Cam Thomas has the team’s only pick, and that happened on San Diego’s first defensive play of 2013. The Chargers need to make a couple of game-changing plays on defense to help flip field position, and steal a few possessions from Andrew Luck.

5. A special play on special teams: San Diego’s return game has yet to make a big play this season. Today would be a good day for one. Again, the Chargers will need to match scores with a pretty potent Indianapolis offense. And getting an impact play on special teams could help San Diego’s chances to stay in the game.