Charger Dilemma

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Code Monkey
Staff member
Jun 29, 2009
Orange County, CA
Source: <a href=",1,1370600.story" target="_blank">LA Times</a>

By Bob Oates

The 13-0 Indianapolis Colts, still driving for a perfect (16-0) season as quarterback Peyton Manning leads the charge, will play their two toughest remaining games during the same week this month, starting with a home game against 8-5 San Diego next Sunday, and continuing the following Saturday, Christmas Eve, at 11-2 Seattle.

Manning is the hardest-working NFL quarterback since Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas (1956-73), and not surprisingly he will be favored both times. But San Diego in particular matches up well with the Colts. And having just lost a game they should have won, the aroused Chargers will arrive in Indiana knowing their season is over if they fail once more.

Doubtless because they were looking ahead to Manning, the Chargers tried to take 5-7 Miami in stride Sunday and were upset, 23-21.

It was a defeat that should be charged to the coaching staff, which is always responsible for a football team's mental and emotional state

[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]In New England, neither the Patriot team nor Coach Bill Belichick, a three-time Super Bowl winner, is ever caught looking past anybody.

At least two of the Chargers' 2005 losses can now be attributed to their leaders, who, to begin with, suspended tight end Antonio Gates unnecessarily and unwisely on opening day, when Dallas won in a 28-24 upset.

At least two other close San Diego games were lost in the final minutes when quarterback Drew Brees, after passing the Chargers into scoring position, was ordered to hand off to running back LaDainian Tomlinson as his conservative coaches played for field goals instead of touchdowns. This is a team with more talented players than there are in Denver, the 10-3 division leader.


Manning Rebounds from Clumsy Fall

MANNING'S GOAL at Indianapolis this year is to surpass a 17-0 winner, the 1972 Miami Dolphins, in both regular-season and total results. And he's in the midst of a difficult three-game test that will determine the Colts' regular-season fate.

The first of the three, Jacksonville, went down Sunday, 26-18, but it was touch and go for much of the first half.

Although Manning started fast, driving Indianapolis ahead, 7-0, the next thing he did was fall clumsily when tripping over himself while dropping back to pass --- the kind of misplay that partially explains why he's so fond of the shotgun formation, in which he just lines up back there.

In his embarrassment --- and under heavy pressure from the Jaguar pass rush --- he couldn't move the Colts for a while. By the second quarter, after the Jaguars had driven back into the game, 7-3, they were attacking him hard and had begun piling up an eventual three sacks, a 2005 record against Manning.

His history shows that under pressure, the Colt quarterback has trouble holding himself together, and eyewitnesses began to wonder if this could be one of those times. Because the Jaguars as coached by young Jack Del Rio play sound defensive football, the question was whether Manning could rebound.

He could. Fighting through the sacks, he suddenly returned to life with a perfect long pass to wide receiver Marvin Harrison, who ran a carefully rehearsed stop-and-go pattern for a 65-yard touchdown, and Jacksonville was just as suddenly doomed before halftime, 17-3.


Colts Need Momentum More than Rest

INDIANAPOLIS FANS are asking --- now that the Colts have earned the all-winter home-field playoff advantage --- whether it would be wiser to rest their starters this month and protect them from physical harm than to seek perfection in a bunch of meaningless games.

The one Colt who might profitably be rested and saved is the running back, Edgerrin James. But benching the entire first team, or much of it, would be a miscalculation. Losing seldom helps any football club. And the Colts are a particularly unusual team that feeds on momentum

Their playoff season is going to be their real test, with opponents like New England, Cincinnati and Denver lining up to knock them out. And it will be difficult enough for Manning to beat that kind if he still has the helpful momentum of his unique winning streak.