In front of a national audience, with Monday Night Football as the stage, the San Diego Chargers beat the Indianapolis Colts at Qualcomm Stadium, improving to 3-3 on the season.
"This was a big team win," said Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. "It was that kind of old school, old fashioned win that we need to have as a team."
The Colts struck first with a field goal on their first drive, but the Chargers answered in the second quarter. A beautiful, 22-yard diving catch by rookie Keenan Allen capped off a 12 play, 74-yard drive to give the Chargers the lead with a touchdown.
"I didn't really see it," said Allen, who finished the night with nine receptions for 107 yards. "I didn't know he was going to throw me the ball. He threw me open. He threw it to the back of the end zone and I just tried to run up under it and make the play.
"It felt amazing. When the ball went up in the air, I knew that I would be able to get to it."
With less than two minutes left in the second quarter, Nick Novak kicked a 31-yard field goal to extend the Chargers' lead to seven points. The 17-play, 79-yard drive took 7:58 off the clock-- something the Chargers could hang their hat on. They controlled the time of possession in the first half nearly twice as long as the Colts, who went 0-5 on first down conversions in the first half and had some costly dropped passes.
As time expired in the second quarter, Indy kicker Adam Vinatieri nailed a 50-yard field goal attempt, bringing the score to Chargers 10, Colts 6 as the teams headed into the locker room.
The Chargers had possession on the first drive of the second half and capitalized on it with a 33-yard field goal by kicker Nick Novak. The remainder of the game continued in much of the same fashion, with Indy receivers missing crucial catches and the Chargers controlling the ball and momentum of the game.
"We stunk on third down today and give a lot of credit to their defense," said Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who completed 18 of 30 passes today for 202 yards. "They had great pressure, a good job of covering guys, and we made our share of mistakes."
In the fourth quarter, Novak again kicked a field goal, this time for 34 yards. Although San Diego had 11 touchdowns in 19 trips to the red zone coming into this game, they were 0-3 tonight.
"We have to improve in that," said Chargers head coach Mike McCoy. "Without a doubt."
Indy got on the board once more, with a field goal in the fourth quarter, closing the gap to seven points. But with 1:55 left in the game, Novak's foot put points on the board one last time -- this time with a 50-yard field goal to clinch the victory.
'I just wanted to celebrate," Novak said. "I saw Nick Hardwick, and he's an animal … He gave me a head butt and it was a good feeling."
San Diego entered the game with a battered linebacker corps. Donald Butler (groin) and Jarret Johnson (hamstring), both inactive, found themselves in the same position as starters Melvin Ingram (PUP) and Dwight Freeney (IR) -- unable to contribute. Backups Thomas Keiser, Tourek Williams and Andrew Gachkar filled in for the injured players.
"It was one of those games where there aren't any expectations outside of the organization as far as succeeding, and we had young guys step up," Keiser said. "When you get your opportunity you need to seize it."
The defense, although shorthanded, was able to hold the Colts to only nine points.
"We were able, for the most part, to contain Andrew Luck," said defensive end Corey Liuget. "We went out there and executed the call and made sure to get good pressure on him because we knew he's a great quarterback and he can hurt us."
**The Chargers rushed for a total of 32 yards last week against the Raiders. Against the Colts, they ran for 147.
"I think a lot of people took it to heart how we ran the football last week, which was poor to say the least," said McCoy. "The coaches answered the challenge and I think the offensive line did an outstanding job of double teams, whatever the scheme was running."
**Nick Novak tied his season high with four field goals tonight, including the 50-yard game clincher. Rivers said he sat down and didn't watch the final field goal, not because he didn't think Novak would make it but because, as he said: "It's 50 YARDS."
Rivers added: "I'm glad he's on our side."
**With Donald Butler inactive, middle linebacker Manti Te'o wore the headset and relayed the plays to the defense for the first time.
"It was great," Te'o said. "It put a lot of responsibility on me to get the call out … I had Donald [Butler] and Jarret [Johnson] on the sideline helping me out.
"It took my game play to another level. What I was seeing, the communication I was having ... It's a learning process for me."