Chargers clinch AFC playoff spot with win over feisty Colts

Fifty weeks after shedding out on the ultimate play of the final regular-season recreation and following a 12 months full of angst and accidents, the Chargers are heading again to the playoffs.

They clinched the franchise’s first postseason berth since 2018 on Monday night time with a 20-3 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

“I’m just super excited,” linebacker Drue Tranquill stated. “I’m really happy for this team, these guys, our owners, [general manager] Tom [Telesco], coach [Brandon] Staley, everyone involved because it hasn’t been an easy two years.

“We know what happened last year in the Las Vegas game. We know what’s happened this year. But we have a special group of guys. I’m just really happy right now to be a part of all this.”

The Chargers received their third in a row and fourth in 5 video games to enhance to 9-6. They’re in sixth place within the AFC and nonetheless have a possibility to maneuver into the convention’s high wild-card spot with two video games left.

All of which put vital distance between now and Week 18 of the 2021 season. That’s when the Chargers have been eradicated by the Raiders on a subject purpose on the ultimate play of time beyond regulation.

“This is not our final goal,” Staley stated. “We expected to be at this point. I’m really proud of how this season has gone and what we’ve been able to demonstrate by making it into the postseason. That’s probably what I’m most proud of — not just being in it but how we made it.”

The Chargers surged over the past 5 weeks whereas many of the groups round them within the AFC standings faltered. They have been 6-6 and on the skin of the playoffs heading into their Dec. 11 recreation in opposition to Miami.

However, regardless of quite a few accidents to a number of of their key contributors, the Chargers pressed on all through to succeed in the postseason in Staley’s second season.

“When we were 6-6, the playoff predictors … that percentage wasn’t too high,” Tranquill stated. “To see what we’ve been able to do short-handed is just special.”

The sport Monday was not with out its personal points. The Chargers misplaced security Derwin James Jr. within the second quarter after he was ejected for a success on Colts broad receiver Ashton Dulin.

Chargers security Derwin James Jr. (3) makes an interception in entrance of the Colts’ Parris Campbell (1). James was ejected within the first half for committing two private foul penalties in three performs.

(AJ Mast / Related Press)

James led together with his helmet and hit a defenseless Dulin up excessive. After a quick dialogue, the officers known as James for a 15-yard penalty and kicked him out. Dulin sat out the remainder of the sport due to a concussion.

James additionally ended up within the NFL’s concussion protocol and due to this fact was not out there to reporters afterward. However he was seen within the postgame locker room celebrating together with his teammates.

Staley stated he didn’t consider the play by James was worthy of an ejection.

“No, I did not because I know Derwin’s intent,” he stated. “I thought that he tried to lead with his shoulder. It’s a play where they obviously laid the guy out, you know, in a tough position, which is their fault, not ours, and Derwin made an aggressive play.

Chargers' Austin Ekeler (30) runs for his first of two touchdowns against the Colts.

The Chargers’ Austin Ekeler (30) runs for his first of two touchdowns against the Colts.

(AJ Mast / Associated Press)

“We all know that Derwin’s not going to try to do that to anybody. We’ll have to look at it. But I know what Derwin’s intentions are. I’ve seen him make a lot of tackles on plays just like that. I know that his target was not above the neck. I know that.”

James had returned for this recreation after sitting out the earlier two weeks due to a quadriceps harm. The NFL definitely will assessment the hit in additional element to find out whether or not extra self-discipline is warranted.

For the third consecutive week, the Chargers received largely behind their protection. They took benefit of a reeling Colts group that had turned to veteran quarterback Nick Foles, who had began just one recreation over the past two calendar years.

The Chargers restricted Indianapolis to 10 first downs, 173 whole yards and a median of three.5 yards per play. The Colts didn’t convert any of their 10 third downs.

The Chargers' Keenan Allen (13) runs after making one of his 11 catches against the Colts.

The Chargers’ Keenan Allen (13) runs after making one in every of his 11 catches in opposition to the Colts. Allen had 104 yards receiving, his first 100-yard recreation of the season.

(AJ Mast / Related Press)

“This was a complete performance,” Tranquill stated. “The coaches had a great game plan. We were dialed in. We were ready, and we were heating him up, heating him up all night, sacking him all over.”

Morgan Fox (two), Tranquill, Khalil Mack, Kyle Van Noy, Kenneth Murray Jr. and Chris Rumph II all had sacks. James, Michael Davis and Asante Samuel Jr. every intercepted Foles.

“It’s not a coincidence,” Tranquill stated, “this group is playing its best football in Week 16.”

And the Chargers’ protection might be on the verge of one other increase. Edge rusher Joey Bosa, who has been out since Week 3 due to a core muscle harm, continues to be anticipated to return earlier than the top of the common season.

Offensively, the Chargers sputtered a lot Monday however managed to place the sport away with a 12-play, 88-yard drive that consumed 6 minutes 33 seconds of the fourth quarter.

The march ended with a one-yard landing run by Austin Ekeler, who scored twice to convey his league-leading landing whole to 16.

“There’ve been ups and downs, but we’ve still continued to find a way to get wins and give ourselves an opportunity here at the end,” Ekeler stated. “That’s where the toughness comes from.”