Monday Night Football Recap: Chargers bury hapless Colts 20-3 to clinch their first playoff berth since 2018

Dec 26, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) celebrates his touchdown with guard Matt Feiler (71) in the first half against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Monday Night Football Recap: Chargers bury hapless Colts 20-3 to clinch their first playoff berth since 2018

Chargers 20, Colts 3 

The Chargers traveled to Indianapolis with an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot on Monday night, and did so with ease as Colts’ quarterback Nick Foles made his first start of the season on the other side.

Neither Foles nor Chargers’ quarterback Justin Herbert were at their best in the early going. Both offenses punted to open up the evening, and exchanged interceptions on their second respective drives. Nick Foles threw his second interception with still 4:48 to go in the first quarter, taken away by Chargers’ safety Derwin James Jr. in his first game back from injury. Los Angeles’ wouldn’t pick up a first down for the first time until there was less than a minute remaining in the first quarter, and turned that possession into a red zone opportunity early in the second. Austin Ekeler punched in a touchdown run from one yard out to finish the drive, giving the Chargers a 7-0 lead. 

Derwin James Jr. was eventually ejected from the game in the second quarter for a violent helmet-to-helmet hit on Colts’ wide receiver Ashton Dulin, delivering a big blow to L.A.’s defense and knocking Dulin out for the rest of the night with a head injury. That Colts’ possession, assisted by the 15-yard penalty on James, would lead to a field goal that cut the Chargers’ lead to 7-3. The Chargers’ offense clearly began to find a rhythm in the second quarter, putting together a second-straight successful possession before halftime. This time, Los Angeles settled for a field goal and a 10-3 advantage at the break. 

Indianapolis’ offense started the second half with Nick Foles’ third interception of the night, as the team’s decision to turn to Foles at quarterback began to look like a complete disaster. The Los Angeles Chargers opened up the second-half scoring with six minutes remaining in the third quarter when Cameron Dicker connected on his second field goal of the night, putting L.A. ahead 13-3. 

The Colts finally caught a break late in the third quarter when Justin Herbert fumbled and Kwity Paye recovered the ball at the Chargers 21-yard line. Still, after three plays failed to gain 10 yards and a questionable decision to go for it on fourth down failed, Indianapolis’ deficit held at 10 points. Los Angeles made its way downfield immediately thereafter on a plodding drive, capping off the 12-play pilgrimage with Austin Ekeler’s second one-yard touchdown run of the night. 

Another turnover on downs by the Colts’ offense gave Los Angeles the football back in Indianapolis territory with six minutes left. Each offense went through the motions as the final minutes ticked off the clock, and the Chargers came away with a dominant win for their first playoff berth since 2018.

Indianapolis’ offense was listless all night, outgained 314 to 173 while earning just 10 first downs. Quarterback Nick Foles was sacked seven times and threw three interceptions. Remarkably, the Colts did not convert a single one of the 10 third downs they faced on the night.

The Chargers will spend the final two weeks of the season ensuring players are healthy and preparing for a road trip in the wild card round of the AFC playoffs. For the first time in his career, L.A.’s young stud at quarterback will suit up under some of the NFL’s brightest lights.
Next Week: Los Angeles: vs. L.A. Chargers, Indianapolis: at N.Y. Giants

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