Remember December 18, 2005? Well I do. The Colts were undefeated going into Week 14 and the Chargers visited the RCA Dome. Michael Turner broke an 83-yard rush for a TD with just over 2 minutes left in the 4th quarter to beat the Colts 26-17 and end their perfect season. (My neighbors were REALLY upset that day over the noise!)
This time Indy is traveling to San Diego, having already had their hopes for a perfect season quashed by the still-undefeated New England Patriots (ahem, cough, cheaters, ahem.) The Chargers are struggling this season, after winning 3 straight, good ole Norv Turner failed to give LT the ball enough while the Vikings rushed for over 300 yds against the then-ranked 8th-against-the-rush Chargers defense, dropping them to .500 midway through the season. Thankfully for them, Green Bay managed to beat the Chiefs to keep the Bolts tied atop the AFC West for another week.
The key for San Diego is to pressure Peyton Manning or he will have a field day against their suspect secondary. Shaun Phillips may be back for this game, and he and Shawne Merriman will need to give Manning a little taste of burnt San Diego turf. With the injury last week to Luis Castillo, Jacques Cesaire and Jamal Williams are going to have to plug holes so Joseph Addai doesn’t get the yardage he did last week.
Furthermore, Philip Rivers (back at home and no extraneous dome noise) is typically more relaxed. Similarly, LaDainian Tomlinson has scored 6 of his 7 TDs at home. The Chargers are also counting on 12th man support for this Sunday night game as well as big plays from their big players. Antonio Cromartie, has 3 TDs in his last 2 games, including a new NFL-record 109-yard missed-FG return for TD last week. Antonio Gates was the leading TE going into last week, and although slipping, is still in the top-5. Chris Chambers has a few clutch catches since donning the blue and gold. And Vincent Jackson (I’m rooting for ya Vince!) need to stop dropping those important long balls.
Interestingly, the Chargers hold the edge in the series over Indy 13-8; and prior to the Colts loss in 2005, Indy had beaten San Diego in 3 straight games.
As both teams are reeling over last week losses, this game is infinitely more important to the Chargers as they struggle to win a 2nd consecutive AFC West title, and their 3rd in 4 years.