What We Learned: Chargers at Colts

ColtPower.com analyst Greg Talmage shares what we learned from watching the San Diego Chargers defeat the Indianapolis Colts, 28-24, in the final NFL game in the RCA Dome Sunday.

1. Putting a body on Bob Sanders significantly slows the Colts defense:

The Titans showed the blueprint in Week 17 — block Bob Sanders — and the Chargers successfully copied it in the divisional playoffs. Use a blocking tight end or big-bodied wide receiver to locate No. 21 and put a body on him. By doing that, teams can basically take the engine out of the Colts defense.

This prevents Sanders from running free, making tackles and causing havoc. It's not clear why it took the NFL two years to figure this out, but now the copycat league will make sure to follow the offensive blocking game plan of the Chargers.

How the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year adjusts will be a huge factor in if the Colts defense can continue to improve.

2. The lack of a pass rush finally caught up with the Colts ...

Blame it on Lisfranc or the fact that the Colts hate to deviate from only rushing four linemen, but the fact is the Colts generated little pass rush Sunday, and as a result both Philip Rivers and backup Billy Volek were able to move the ball through the air all afternoon.

The Colts would occasionally show a blitz, but not enough to consistently confuse the Chargers' offensive line, who deserve a tip of the cap.

They simply dominated the trench battle against the Colts' defensive line. The old adage says games are won and lost in the trenches. That was proven true again on Sunday.

The return of a healthy Dwight Freeney will help this unit tremendously in 2008. We can only hope he regains his form.


Joseph Addai struggled in the second part of the season
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

3. ... and so did the lack of a running game:

One fact that wasn't talked about much as the season wore on was the fact that Indianapolis failed to continually run the ball successfully for most of the season.

Joseph Addai failed to run for 100 or more yards in any game after the Week 9 clash with New England. That's not Colts football.

It's hard to say what the main cause of the problem here was — possibly a lack of continuity and constant injuries to the offensive line, the fact that Addai played most of the season with a bum shoulder and neck, or play-calling.

4. The AFC South will only get tougher:

Both the Jaguars and Titans have over $35 million to spend against the cap this offseason. Each will likely invest in some talented receivers and look to add depth to their defenses, and both of these playoff teams should be improved in 2008.

The Colts have won the AFC South five consecutive seasons and will continue to be the class of the division until someone knocks them off. As long as they stay healthy, the Jaguars, Titans, and a Texans squad that finished 8-8 last year will all be improved next season.

That will make the AFC South the toughest division in the NFL again next season. Still, in the NFL, where parity reigns supreme, one never knows.

Coming into this year most thought the North would be the toughest division in the AFC, but the Ravens got old in a hurry and the Bengals lost their linebackers.

5. The Colts can win without Harrison:

The Colts are a better team with Marvin Harrison than without.

But those earlier reports that Harrison's knee may never be the same again might be true. Hopefully, they are wrong and Harrison comes back strong in 2008.

If that doesn't happen, then the 10 weeks the Colts were forced to play without Harrison will serve as an excellent learning experience.

Anthony Gonzalez proved he is more than a slot receiver and that he can play the outside receiver spot without a hitch. Reggie Wayne showed that he is a No. 1 receiver who can get open even when being double covered.

Besides the two wideouts, TE Dallas Clark had another solid campaign and continues to create mismatches. You can line him up off tackle or in the slot. The guy is comfortable going out of either spot.


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