Playoff tune-up

A playoff tune-up revealed several areas that need improvement as the clock turns to 2005. The San Diego Chargers are back at work in preparation for Kansas City with an eye towards making a statement in January.

Chargers Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE A -- Drew Brees nearly matched Peyton Manning, throwing for three touchdowns and 290 yards. He did get picked once, when overthrowing Antonio Gates near the end of regulation. The pass-blocking was superb as Brees was sacked but once. That's particularly impressive when considering the noise issues the front line had to deal with.

RUSHING OFFENSE B -- LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 93 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. The run-blocking was just fine as the Chargers' line was active and also got into the second wave of defenders.

PASS DEFENSE D -- Trouble here, as Manning threw for 383 yards and two touchdowns. Much of that damage came in the second half and when the Chargers had to absolutely make a stop in the fourth quarter, they couldn't. The pass rush was a pleasant surprise, as the Colts had allowed but nine sacks all year -- the Chargers got Manning four times, with three coming from Steve Foley.

RUSH DEFENSE C -- Sunday marked the second straight week the run defense was punch for at least 100 yards. And the real killer was the run defense had a chance to turn back the Colts on a two-point conversion to tie the game, and it couldn't. Igor Olshansky and Jamal Williams had tackles behind the line of scrimmage. But early on, the Colts had their way running the ball. They gained 83 yards rushing in the first half.

SPECIAL TEAMS F -- The kickoff coverages teams were terrible, and cost the team the game. The Chargers gave up 252 yards in return yardage, including a game-turning touchdown. Nate Kaeding gets credit for his 50-yard field goal, and Mike Scifres got off a 60-yard punt. But the poor performance by the coverage units cannot be overlooked.

COACHING D -- Good teams and good coaches don't blow 15-point leads in the fourth quarter. Although, it was a heck of a challenge to turn back Manning inside the RCA Dome. Tough. The Chargers keep telling us they are among the elite teams in the NFL, and if that's the case they can't squander games away like they did on Sunday. Wade Phillips, the defensive coordinator, has gotten a lot of praise this year. But his pass defense wasn't up to the task once again.

Colts Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- It took a while to get going, but the Colts ended up completing 27-of-44 passes for 383 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Manning connected with seven different receivers, with Brandon Stokley catching seven for 123 yards and a touchdown while Marvin Harrison had six receptions for 111 yards. The negatives included giving up four sacks, the most allowed by the Colts this season, and several dropped passes.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- RB Edgerrin James continues to make the tough yards. His two-point conversion run late in the fourth quarter was clutch. James outgained San Diego RB LaDainian Tomlinson, picking up 86 yards in 22 carries. Backup RB Dominic Rhodes stepped in and gave the Colts two runs for 19 yards.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- Indianapolis gave up 290 yards passing, recorded just one sack and one pass interception. Chargers WR Eric Parker had seven catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. But when push came to shove, the Colts made plays in the fourth quarter to help in the comeback win.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- Tomlinson had 81 yards on 21 carries, 16 of those yards coming on a fourth-quarter touchdown run. The Colts limited San Diego to 93 yards rushing as a team.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus -- RB Dominic Rhodes set a franchise record with 236 kickoff return yards, including an 88-yard kickoff return for a momentum changing touchdown. PK Mike Vanderjagt hit four of five field goal attempts, including the game-winner in overtime. Both the punt and kickoff coverage was as good as it had been all year. PK Martin' Gramatica did have one kickoff go out of bounds, giving the Chargers good field position for one fourth-quarter drive.

COACHING: B-plus -- Give the Colts' coaching staff credit for staying the course, despite early struggles on both sides of the ball. Despite trailing by as many as 15 points in the third quarter, there was no panic on the Indianapolis sideline.


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