Saturday's games had nothing on Sunday's. This game changed in the first quarter. With Indianapolis already up 7-0, Peyton Manning had the offense driving again. Peyton also had his favorite receiver Marvin Harrison back. Manning quickly hooked up with Harrison, but with his first action since October, Harrison fumbled the ball away to the Chargers. San Diego marched down the field to tie the score 7-7 and save the game and the season. Indy was easily on its way to a 14-0 lead and would have blew the Bolts out of the Dome.
Now it was game on! You'll hear the word "gutsy" to describe this Chargers team all week. It was more than gutsy. It was great coaching (Norv Turner!) and great overall team play. The Chargers played most of the game without all universe running back Ladanian Tomilson and Pro Bowl TE Antonio Gates, the bread and butter of this team for the last couple of years. To make matters worse, Phillip Rivers was knocked out in the fourth quarter. So now, it's the fourth quarter with the Colts on top. The Chargers have second string QB Billy Volek on the road in a hostile environment going up against one of the best defenses in the NFL. And Volek looked great having no problem coming off the bench and marching his team down the field. Reminisce of Jeff Hostetler.
You've have to blame the Indianapolis coaching staff for this meltdown. Maybe it had something to do with the whole Tony Dungy retiring rumors. The Colts quickly turned one dimensional and gave up on Pro Bowler Joseph Addai and the running game. San Diego was able to play against the pass the rest of the game and Indy could not control the clock or the game. Peyton Manning was seen more on commercial breaks than the game. Still, Manning had two chances late in the fourth quarter to win the game. With under five minutes to go, Indy had 1st and goal, 1st and goal! and took four shots at the end zone and came away empty. On the last two plays of the drive, Manning had Anthony Gonzales open on third down, and Dallas Clark wide on fourth.
The Colts were still able to get Manning the ball back with around two minutes to go. This was situation that every boy dreams of. Playoffs. Two minutes to go. Down by four. At home. You would think by now Peyton Manning would strive in this situation. Manning was unable to move the Colts pass midfield and give them any kind of shot for the win. Yeah, Manning won the Super Bowl and got that monkey off his back, but now, for his career in the fourth quarter of the playoffs, Manning has thrown 5 TD's and 5 picks.
Hats off to the Chargers. This is the same team that started 1-3, was 5-5 at one point and written by everyone. The Chargers fought through injuries and home team penalties to somehow earn a trip to Foxboro next week. The Chargers are making their first trip to the AFC Championship Game since 1994 when they were led by Junior Seau, Natrone Means, and Stan Humphries, how about that!
That maybe the biggest gift to the Patriots. Not only do the Patriots avoid their arch nemesis Colts (And many believe the team with the best shot to knock off New England), the Chargers will come into Foxboro banged up. But with the way San Diego's defense played yesterday, anything's possible. Just ask the Indianapolis Colts.