Final

Chargers 28

(11-5, 4-4 away)

Colts 24

(13-3, 6-2 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, January 13, 2008

 

1 2 3 4 T
SD 0 7 14 728
IND 7 3 7 724

Top Performers

Passing: P. Manning (IND) - 402 YDS, 3 TD, 2 INT

Rushing: M. Turner (SD) - 17 CAR, 71 YDS

Receiving: D. Clark (IND) - 6 REC, 95 YDS, 1 TD

Chargers stun Colts, will face Patriots in AFC title game

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- After handing New England a huge gift, the San Diego Chargers believe it's time to give the unbeaten Patriots something else: a challenge.

And, oh yeah, a loss.

By stunning Peyton Manning and the defending champion Colts 28-24 on Sunday, undermanned San Diego removed New England's biggest road block to the Super Bowl. Not that the Chargers are intimidated by facing the 17-0 Patriots in the AFC title game next weekend.

Despite having LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers on the sideline, the Chargers won their eighth straight game. Of course, that's not even half of what New England has achieved.

Playoff Precursor
Peyton Manning
Over the last 30 years, four quarterbacks threw five or more interceptions in a regular-season game, then met that team in the playoffs. Peyton Manning suffered the same fate Sunday as the three previous members of that club.
Player Year Opp. Result INTs
Peyton Manning 2007 Chargers Loss, 28-24 2
Jay Schroeder 1986 Giants Loss, 17-0 1
Dan Fouts 1980 Raiders Loss, 34-27 2
Ken Stabler 1977 Broncos Loss, 20-17 1
* Source: Elias

"Seventeen have tried and it hasn't happened," Rivers said of New England's perfect record. "We think it can happen."

But San Diego must avoid a repeat of its last performance at New England, when it was routed 38-14 in Week 2. That was the beginning of a slide to 5-5 for San Diego, but the Chargers (13-5) are rolling now.

"A lot has happened since then," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We'll definitely start all over on the preparations. It's like it's a new team."

Also an undermanned team. L.T. departed in the first half with a bruised left knee, and Rivers went out in the third quarter with a damaged right knee. Both said they hoped to be ready for the Patriots, and coach Norv Turner said they are "questionable."

"That's the true measure of a team," Tomlinson said. "Guys stepped up and got it done."

Those guys included Billy Volek at quarterback and Michael Turner as the main runner. Led by those subs, San Diego went 78 yards on eight plays, with Volek sneaking in from the 1 with 4:50 remaining for the lead. The Chargers' big-play defense then held on downs at its 7, and stopped Indy again in the final moments to preserve their eighth straight win.

To make it nine in a row and advance to their second Super Bowl -- the other was a loss to San Francisco after the 1994 season -- the Chargers will need all that resourcefulness again.

"I'm pretty sure we'll be huge underdogs, but it's still going to be fun, just to get the opportunity," Tomlinson said. "All the rest of the teams have had their opportunity to play New England, and we'll get another opportunity to do so in the AFC Championship Game. What a better way to go back there."

For the Colts (13-4), it was a bitterly quick elimination from the postseason.

A year ago, they won three playoff games, then beat Chicago in the Super Bowl. They couldn't recapture their touch on offense or defense this time.

"What happened last year doesn't make it any easier this year," Manning said. "When you come back and commit yourself to the '07 season and you don't finish it like you want to, it hurts."

A defense that allowed the fewest points during the season wore down against the equally physical Chargers. Still, the Colts went in front 24-21 when Anthony Gonzalez slipped past Marlon McCree down the left sideline to complete a 55-yard scoring play with 10:07 to go. The Chargers challenged that Gonzalez stepped out of bounds at about the 25, but the play stood.

So San Diego's backups then won it, helped by a 27-yard screen pass to rookie Legedu Naanee and a 15-yard face-mask penalty against Indianapolis cornerback Marlin Jackson.

Since Week 12: Pats vs. Bolts
While Patriots fans may be excited at the prospect of playing the Chargers instead of the Colts in the AFC Championship Game, they may want to think twice. Over the last part of the season, San Diego has arguably been a better team, especially on defense.
Chargers Patriots
W-L 8-0 7-0
PPG 28.5 29.9
Opp PPG 13.1 19.6
Opp rush YPG 84.8 108.4
Takeaways 24 11

"When you have so many weapons, you don't have to do anything special," Volek said. "It was not like the game was out of reach. I had to go out there and fill my role."

Manning did throw for 402 yards, completing 33 of his 48 throws, but both interceptions killed deep scoring threats.

With All-Pro cornerback Antonio Cromartie getting an interception and fumble recovery, and linebackers Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips plaguing Manning, the Chargers showed they have the ability to throw off any offense. Maybe even the most prolific attack in NFL history next Sunday.

It was a gutty showing by Rivers, who threw for three scores -- he banged his right knee on a 56-yard screen pass TD by Darren Sproles to end the third quarter. And Turner, who could be a starter elsewhere but usually sits behind league rushing leader Tomlinson, rushed for 71 yards.

The Chargers' opportunistic defense, which led the league in takeaways (48) and turnover margin (plus-24), grabbed two interceptions -- both on tipped balls -- and a fumble. While San Diego couldn't stop Manning's offense from steadily marching downfield most of the game, it could make the key plays that get you closer to the Super Bowl.

Still, if Tomlinson is limited or sidelined, how much chance do the Chargers have against the perfect Patriots? Not to mention perhaps missing Rivers or tight end Antonio Gates, who courageously played much of the day on a dislocated toe.

Belichick dismissed the injuries.

"We're prepared for everybody," he said. "As we saw today, any number of players could be in the game."

Rivers was 14-of-19 for 264 yards, and Volek went 3-of-4 for 48 yards in his clutch relief role. Vincent Jackson became Rivers' top target with Gates struggling, and had seven catches for 93 yards and a score.

Indianapolis lost only six fumbles all season, but Harrison, who hadn't been hit in almost three months while sidelined by a knee injury, was stripped on his first reception by Cromartie. McCree recovered at the San Diego 22, stymying a lengthy drive begun with Kelvin Hayden's interception.

San Diego capitalized with a 78-yard march, including three third-down conversions. Jackson beat double-coverage for his 14-yard score on third down, making it 7-7.

The first Indy scoring series was vintage Manning. He picked apart the Chargers with short timing throws to Joseph Addai and Reggie Wayne, who picked up 8 yards on a fourth-and-2 at the San Diego 37. Two plays later, tight end Dallas Clark used a double fake on Clinton Hart for a 25-yard touchdown catch.

Indy went on top 10-7 on Adam Vinatieri's season-best 47-yard field goal, then the Chargers, now minus L.T., got to the Colts 31 behind Turner, who gained 25 yards on the march. But Nate Kaeding's 48-yard field goal try bounced off the right upright.

In the final seconds of the half, Manning's high pass was tipped by Wayne and picked off by Cromartie, the league leader in interceptions. He got several blocks, including one on Manning, in running it back to the end zone, but a block by Eric Weddle was ruled holding, negating the long touchdown.

Game notes


Norv Turner was livid at the call on Weddle, berating the officials after what appeared a simple legal push by Weddle, who also had the other San Diego interception. ... During Wayne's 9-yard sideline reception on which he dived to the pylon, he was initially ruled out-of-bounds. He was given the touchdown after the Colts challenged. ... Rivers also found Chris Chambers with a 30-yard TD pass to open the second half.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
SD
IND
1st Downs2029
Passing 1st downs
1421
Rushing 1st downs
44
1st downs from penalties
24
3rd down efficiency
6-103-11
4th down efficiency
0-02-4
Total Plays5366
Total Yards411446
Yards per play7.86.8
Total Drives1210
Passing312402
Comp-Att
17-2333-48
Yards per pass
13.68.4
Interceptions thrown
12
Sacks-Yards Lost
0-00-0
Rushing9944
Rushing Attempts
3018
Yards per rush
3.32.4
Red Zone (Made-Att)2-21-3
Penalties10-795-54
Turnovers13
Fumbles lost
01
Interceptions thrown
12
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession29:3930:21

Passing Leaders

SDC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Rivers14/1926413.9310-0
Volek3/44812.0000-0
INDC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Manning33/484028.4320-0

Rushing Leaders

SDCARYDSAVGTDLG
Turner17714.2019
Tomlinson7284.008
INDCARYDSAVGTDLG
Addai13433.3010
Keith471.805

Receiving Leaders

SDRECYDSAVGTDLG
Jackson79313.3121
Chambers36722.3130
INDRECYDSAVGTDLG
Clark69515.8125
Gonzalez47919.8155

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERSDIND
indTD9:20Dallas Clark, 25 yd pass from Peyton Manning (Adam Vinatieri kick is good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 76 yds, 5:47
07
SECOND QUARTERSDIND
sdTD8:44Vincent Jackson, 14 yd pass from Philip Rivers (Nate Kaeding kick is good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 78 yds, 7:16
77
indFG5:14Adam Vinatieri 46 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 8 plays, 44 yds, 3:28
710
THIRD QUARTERSDIND
sdTD11:39Chris Chambers, 30 yd pass from Philip Rivers (Nate Kaeding kick is good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 83 yds, 3:27
1410
indTD3:19Reggie Wayne, 9 yd pass from Peyton Manning (Adam Vinatieri kick is good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 50 yds, 3:02
1417
sdTD0:10Darren Sproles, 56 yd pass from Philip Rivers (Nate Kaeding kick is good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 74 yds, 2:53
2117
FOURTH QUARTERSDIND
indTD10:16Anthony Gonzalez, 55 yd pass from Peyton Manning (Adam Vinatieri kick is good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 56 yds, 0:43
2124
sdTD4:54Billy Volek, 1 yd run (Nate Kaeding kick is good)
Drive info: 8 plays, 78 yds, 5:17
2824