Game Scout: Chargers vs. Colts

The San Diego Chargers have had the Indianapolis Colts' number over the last few seasons. Coach Norv Turner must hope that trend continues Sunday, because the magic number of the Denver Broncos is dwindling. Scout.com looks at the latest injury news, keys to the game and scoop from both camps.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/23/08
SURFACE: Grass
TV: NBC (Al Michaels, ohn Madden, Andrea Kremer)

SERIES: 23rd regular-season meeting. The Chargers lead the series, 14-8. Last year the Chargers took a regular-season and playoff game from the Colts. In a Sunday night game in 2007, the Chargers built a 23-0 lead and held on for a 23-21 victory. In the playoff game, backup QB Billy Volek's 1-yard run ousted the Colts from the postseason in the last game at the RCA Dome.

PREDICTION: Chargers 24-21

KEYS TO THE GAME:


QB Philip Rivers
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty

Chargers: The Chargers kick off a three-game homestand, and QB Philip Rivers is 18-2 in 20 career starts at Qualcomm Stadium. But it's the ground game the Chargers want to focus on. San Diego is averaging just 93.1 rushing yards per game, but this is an opportunity for RB LaDainian Tomlinson to provide more balance to the offense. While the Colts' run defense has improved in recent weeks, it is still allowing 135.8 yards per game and could be without SS Bob Sanders.

Colts: If the Chargers don't stuff RB Joseph Addai - who is coming off his first 100-yard game of the season - they'll have no chance of getting off the field. San Diego isn't rushing the passer well, which is directly linked to the pass defense sitting at the bottom of the league allowing 267 yards per game. If Manning is getting help from Addai and can throw off play-action, the Chargers' beleaguered secondary can't put up much of a fight.

Key Injuries:

Chargers: DE Luis Castillo (groin) is uncertain.

Colts: CB Kelvin Hayden (hamstring) is uncertain; Sanders (knee) hopes to play after sitting out last week.

Need to know: Manning has thrown eight touchdowns against 11 interceptions in five career regular-season meetings. He threw six in San Diego last Nov. 11. ... With one touchdown, Tomlinson will tie Marshall Faulk (136) for the fifth-most in NFL history.

PLAYER NOTES

Chargers:

-- DE Luis Castillo (groin) hasn't practiced since getting hurt in the loss at Pittsburgh. There's a strong possibility he won't play Sunday and will be replaced by Jacques Cesaire.


DE Jacques Cesaire
Rick Stewart/Getty

-- DE Jacques Cesaire continues to work despite a painful knee contusion he suffered against the Steelers. Cesaire had two sacks last Sunday.

-- CB Antonio Cromartie, who had three interceptions against Peyton Manning in a win last year, was limited in practice Thursday with his chronic hip injury. But he worked enough that he will play on Sunday.

-- RB Michael Bennett, who was picked up recently on waivers, continues to work. But coach Norv Turner said he is a few weeks away from playing - unless there is an injury.

-- DT Jamal Williams returned to practice Thursday after being given Wednesday off to rest his knees.

-- DL Ryon Bingham figures to get additional playing time with the injury to Castillo and the Chargers trying to keep Williams fresh.

Colts:

--DE Robert Mathis (toe) returned to practice Thursday and is expected to play Sunday at San Diego.

--S Antoine Bethea (ankle) was able to practice Thursday and should be able to start against the Chargers on Sunday night.


DE Dwight Freeney
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

--DE Dwight Freeney practiced Thursday after he was given Wednesday off to rest old injuries. Freeney will start against San Diego on Sunday.

--DT Darrell Reid (hip) took part in Thursday's workout and is expected to play this week when the Colts travel to San Diego.

--CB Kelvin Hayden (hamstring) saw some work in practice Thursday. Hayden's availability for the San Diego game won't be known until Friday or Saturday.

--S Bob Sanders (knee) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. Sanders' chances of playing against the Chargers Sunday night won't be known until Saturday.

--WR Reggie Wayne (ankle) practiced Wednesday and Thursday. Wayne is expected to start Sunday night at San Diego.

--LB Gary Brackett (quadriceps) returned for Thursday's workout after sitting out on Wednesday. Brackett will start Sunday against San Diego.

--CB Tim Jennings was able to practice Thursday. Jennings was allowed to miss Wednesday's workout in order to rest old injuries.

--S Melvin Bullitt (illness) did not practice Thursday. He is expected to be able to play Sunday at San Diego.

--WR Roy Hall (knee/hamstring) did not practice Thursday. Hall has not played since the Colts' season opener with Chicago on Sept. 7.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Chargers:

The Chargers entertain the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night, looking to get on a roll which will get them to the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.

But regardless if they make the postseason or not, coach Norv Turner is safe for 2009.

"This year's not over, but there are no plans to replace him," general manager A.J. Smith said. "It's not been discussed. He's coming back. We're not on a year-to-year basis."

But things can change - ask defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell.


HC Norv Turner
Jeff Gross/Getty

Smith said the Chargers weren't going to make any coaching changes during the bye then gave his approval of shoving Cottrell to the curb.

Turner said he's doesn't think the Chargers are desperate - maybe they should be at 4-6 and trailing the first-place Broncos by two games.

"There is a sense of urgency," he said. "I think if you start using the term desperation, you start doing things that aren't sound. I think you got to go play and understand the difference and obviously in a number of games we are a play or two away. We have to find a way to make those plays and finish games."

Smith said the season isn't finished but the talk of him canning Turner needs to be over.

"I believe he's the right guy for our football team, and there are a lot of things I like about him and I look forward to working with him in the future," Smith said. "We're attacking this thing together.

"After 2007, I was very pleased with what we accomplished and I thought he was just outstanding in his first year -- his playoff coaching and professionalism I thought was exceptional."

The last two assessments are direct shots at Marty Schottenheimer, who Smith helped fire after he went 14-2 then lost in the playoffs.

But despite Turner overseeing a team which has to be among the most disappointing in the NFL, the talk now is that his job is safe.

Things, though, can change.

Ask Ted Cottrell.

Colts:

Last year's regular-season matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers was, if nothing else, bizarre.

San Diego forced six interceptions by Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, three by cornerback Antonio Cromartie. The Chargers held a commanding 23-7 lead at halftime, but Indianapolis charged back with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to narrow the margin to 23-21.


K Adam Vinatieri
Andy Lyons/Getty

A missed 29-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri late in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference in the game and thwarted the comeback attempt by the Colts. Indianapolis outgained the Chargers 386-177 in total offensive yardage, but gave up an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 45-yard punt return for a touchdown. Both of those returns were by running back Darren Sproles.

The Colts lost defensive end Dwight Freeney (foot) during the game, along with offensive tackles Ryan Diem (ankle/knee) and Charlie Johnson (foot), and defensive end Robert Mathis (knee). Indianapolis also played without wide receiver Marvin Harrison (knee), offensive tackle Tony Ugoh (neck), defensive tackle Raheem Brock (neck), linebacker Freddy Keiaho (ear), wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez (thumb), tight end Dallas Clark (concussion) and safety Matt Giordano (hamstring).

"What you learn is the lesson probably for your team all the time, that you have to do what you're supposed to do. It doesn't really matter who's in the game, who's not in the game, what the score is or any of those things," Colts coach Tony Dungy said recently.

"We gave up two returns for touchdowns. We turned the ball over six times. We did a lot of the things that you can't do. But in the second half, when we settled down and didn't do anything spectacular, we just played and you still had a chance to win the game. And that's the bottom line. So, then, you look back and say, 'In spite of all the guys that didn't play, in spite of the return touchdowns and those kinds of things, if we don't turn it over in the red zone, if we just make our field goals, we're still going to win the game.' That's just, probably, a lesson in the obvious that football is not that hard to explain or to do. It's difficult to execute, but the idea's not that hard."


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