Chargers slay the giant with luck

The Chargers tried to give away Sunday's game to team that had not been beaten but somehow came away with the win – becoming Giant slayers along the way.

The same team that ended the Patriots home winning streak, ended the Colts bid to stay unbeaten, handing Indianapolis loss number one in game 14.

"The next time a team goes 13-0, they're going to rewind back to this game and show how we broke it up," center Nick Hardwick said.

But it wasn't as easy as that day in Gillette Stadium back in October.

Unlike that manhandling, the Chargers had to scrape and claw, overcoming miscues with a defense that would not give up many inches.

The Bolts won by nine points but it could have been so much more.

After a tipped pass intended for Reggie Wayne was intercepted by Drayton Florence, the first interception by a starting cornerback for the Chargers all year, he returned it ten yards to the Indy 25 before Dallas Clark popped him and jarred the ball loose where center Jeff Saturday picked it up to give Indy the ball back.

It was a play that could have began to put a dagger in the Colts. The Chargers had a clear emotional edge early on and were in position to continue to bring the heat.

The Chargers would have had the ball inside the 25 – five yards from the red zone where they are the number one scoring offense in the league with points in 40-of-42 drives entering Sunday's game.

While ten, or even 14, points does not mean victory against a touch Indianapolis team, it would have been near domination as the Bolts would have had near 100 yards to the zero the Colts put up on the board halfway through quarter number one.

Three quarters remained of course, but the stage could have been set.

Florence would then miss another interception in the second quarter that could have killed a Colts drive, one that ended at the one-yard line when the Colts tried to go for it and failed on fourth down.

Drew Brees tried to hand the game to Indianapolis single-handedly with a 16-3 lead. In a span of three minutes and nine seconds, he was intercepted in his own zone with the Colts scoring, and Dwight Freeney stripped the ball from him inside the five, turning a 13 point lead into a one point deficit.

"You talk about winning in the league, and it's not always the way you draw it up during the game," said Brees. "But as long as you make those plays, that's all that matters."

The miscues continued in the fourth quarter when Keenan McCardell fielded a punt at the one-yard line when it was clear that the booming 55-yard punt from Hunter Smith was headed into the end zone. The Bolts started the drive at the eight-yard line instead of the 20.

They overcame that play as well when Nate Kaeding converted from 49 yards out.

Things got worse. After a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Brees was picked off in the end zone.

The constant, however, was solid defensive play and neither team willing to quit.

"You had both teams playing for 60 minutes, and when you have that you're going to have a great ballgame," said linebacker Shawne Merriman.

It was said that the Chargers had to bring their "A" game but they brought a "C+" and still won. The difference, still, was the defense. They hurried Peyton Manning 13 times and the biggest play was an intentional grounding call on the Colts' quarterback late in the game which pushed them out of field goal range.

"We made some errors that were uncharacteristic of us, but I think they forced a lot of those," Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy said.

"You don't want to lose any games, whether there's history at stake, the playoffs, period," wide receiver Reggie Wayne said. "You never want to lose and have that sour taste in your mouth, and that's how we look at it. We lost and history (finishing the season undefeated) is out the window. We have to correct our mistakes and get ready for next week. We weren't hitting on any cylinders. They won today. They were the better team today and give credit to them."

The Chargers learned about their mettle. This game was nearly handed to them but the offense struggled and several players tried their best to be the hero.

A positive – bigger than the game – was the ability of the defense to step up. They had been beaten on time and again. But not this week. They were the difference and won the game. More importantly, it prolonged their playoff hopes.

"I am very excited, not because it was their (Colts) first loss, it was because we are still in this hunt for the playoffs," McCardell said. "This was a must win for us and we have to continue to win to get in. We knew we had to win this game. This (game) was about us keeping our playoffs hope alive."


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