Chargers blitz Colts, clinch playoffs. Can L.A. make deep postseason run? – Trending News

Chargers blitz Colts, clinch playoffs. Can L.A. make deep postseason run?


The Los Angeles Chargers leaned on playmakers Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler to win the team’s third straight game, sealing an AFC postseason spot for the first time since 2018 with a commanding 20-3 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on the road on Monday Night Football.

The Chargers improved to 9-6 on the year and have two games left — at home against the crosstown Rams and on the road against the Denver Broncos to finish out the regular season.

The Colts, losers of five games in a row, did not put up much of a fight. They were 0-of-10 on third down and the Chargers held Indianapolis to 173 total yards. 

Quarterback Nick Foles, starting his first game of the year, finished 17-of-29 for 143 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. Foles was sacked seven times by the Chargers — including two times by defensive tackle Morgan Fox. Foles finished with a 31.9 passer rating.

Chargers QB Justin Herbert, in his third NFL season, finally earned an opportunity to play in the postseason. But he also continued to struggle taking care of the football, with an interception and a lost fumble against the Colts, and no touchdown passes. Herbert completed 24 of 31 passes for 235 yards. 

Herbert has four giveaways and no touchdown passes in his past two games.

“I’ve got to be smarter with the ball, and that starts with me,” Herbert said. “And we’ve got to finish in the red zone, so there’s room for improvement and a lot of opportunities for us to get better.” 

But the playmakers for the Bolts were the story. Ekeler finished with 79 scrimmage yards and two rushing touchdowns, bringing his league-leading touchdown total to 16. Allen had his first 100-yard receiving performance of the season, totaling 104 yards on 11 catches. Williams added four catches for 76 yards. 

While Herbert was not spectacular, he did complete 6 of 6 passes for 69 yards on L.A.’s first scoring drive of the game, which was capped by an Ekeler 1-yard touchdown run, giving the Chargers an early 7-0 advantage — a lead they would never relinquish. 

Derwin James Jr. returned to the field after missing two games with a quad injury and made his presence felt early with an interception of a Foles pass to the sideline intended for Parris Campbell. Michael Davis and Asante Samuel Jr. also had interceptions for the Chargers. 

However, later in the second quarter, James was ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit while defending a flat route by Indianapolis receiver Ashton Dulin. James was flagged for 15 yards for the personal foul penalty, which led to the Colts getting a 46-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin — the only points of the game for Indianapolis. 

Dulin was ruled out of the game with a concussion, and James is in concussion protocol, according to head coach Brandon Staley. 

The Chargers appear to be peaking at the right time. All-Pro pass rusher Joey Bosa is expected to return to practice after missing most of the year with a groin injury, and left tackle Rashawn Slater has a chance to return for the playoffs after suffering a torn biceps tendon earlier this year.

The past four times the Chargers reached the playoffs, with longtime QB Philip Rivers guiding the offense, they failed to get past the divisional round. So, can Herbert lead the Bolts to a deep playoff run against AFC heavyweights like the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals?

Staley believes his team has the talent and the grit to make a deep postseason run.

“You have to prove your toughness,” said Staley, now 18-14 in his second season with L.A. “And that’s what we’ve proven this year. We have a tough enough football team mentally and physically to be where we are right now, which is in the tournament. But our season is not over. We have two more games left against really good teams.

“We need to search to play our best football, so we can not only get into the playoffs but make a run to a Super Bowl championship, which is what our goal is. So, we’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’m certainly proud of everyone in that locker room because today was a really great day for our team.” 

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Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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