Cromartie, Sproles Power Chargers Past Colts

What does it take to overcome the shoddy play of QB Philip Rivers? Apparently, six interceptions, two kick-return touchdowns and a couple of fortuitous misses by a typically clutch kicker. The Bolts got all of the above in beating the Colts, 23-21, in a game that vaulted them into first place in the AFC West.


--Antonio Cromartie picked of Peyton Manning three times during the first half. After going the first 21 games of his career without an interception or a score, Cromartie has intercepted six passes and tallied three touchdowns in the last four weeks. When Quentin Jammer returns from a hamstring injury, presumably next week, Drayton Florence be bounced from the starting lineup. Cromartie leads the league in interceptions despite having started only one game.

"I try to go out every week and make a statement for myself and just go out and have fun," Cromartie said.

--Darren Sproles returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for his first NFL touchdown. Less than nine minutes later, he struck again by taking back a punt 45 yards for the touchdown. Despite Cromartie's incredible performance, the calls for him to replace Sproles on kick returns will be muted for at least one week. The Chargers have scored touchdowns on special teams in three straight games.

"We didn't have a good special teams game last week," Tony Dungy said. "We needed to come out and improve on that performance and we didn't."

--Joining Cromartie in the defensive highlight reel are Shaun Phillips, Matt Wilhelm and Clinton Hart, each of whom intercepted Manning. The six interceptions by Manning were a career high and more than doubled his season total -- he came in with just four.

--The Chargers finally won a close game -- each of their other victories came by at least 11 points. However, they chaotic back-and-forth struggle has became of staple of the Colts-Chargers series. In 2005, the Chargers jumped out to a 16-0 lead before enduring a furious comeback by Peyton Manning that fell just short. Sound familiar?

--The run defense came out determined to prove last week's record-setting performance by Adrian Peterson was an aberration. Mission accomplished. Joseph Addai, who topped the century mark both rushing and receiving last week against the New England Patriots, was limited to 55 yards on 22 rushes (2.5 yards per carry).


--Philip Rivers suffered through another dreadful game. He completed 13-of-24 passes (54 percent) for 104 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. He has thrown as many interceptions (10) as he has touchdowns this season. That 1:1 ratio is shared by Joey Harrington, and Rivers is falling into that class of quarterback very quickly.

--The offense turned the six turnovers into just two scores, a touchdown and a field goal. The offense then gave the touchdown right back when Rivers had the ball slip out of his hands in his own end zone, only to see Gary Brackett recover it for the score.

--The numbers paint the pictures of an offensive team in disarray. The team converted only 27 percent of its third-down attempts. The offense as a whole gained only 177 yards, the second week in a row the unit has come in under 230. Vincent Jackson's 28 receiving yards led the team. As for LaDainian Tomlinson, he finished with fewer than 80 yards rushing for the sixth time in nine games.

--So much for the Colts not being able to pass protect against 3-4 defenses. Indy allowed just two sacks despite the fact that Tony Ugoh was inactive and his replacement, Charlie Johnson, left in the second quarter with an injury of his own. Shawne Merriman and Phillips were shut out, although their reserves, Marques Harris and Carlos Polk, bagged one apiece.


The Chargers head to Florida to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars (6-3). The Jaguars are coming off a 28-13 win over the Tennessee Titans are hope to get starting quarterback David Garrard back in time to face the Bolts.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. He has followed the Chargers for more than 14 years and covered the team since 2003.

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