INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers clinched their first playoff berth since 2018, defeating the overmatched Indianapolis Colts 20-3 on Monday night, with Austin Ekeler scoring on two 1-yard runs.
The Chargers (9-6) won their third straight game after receiving help from Las Vegas, Miami, New England, and the New York Jets. Justin Herbert threw for 235 yards and Cameron Dicker made two short field goals. After all four losses, the Chargers only needed a win to make the playoffs for the first time under Herbert and only the second time since 2014.
And, unlike last season, when Los Angeles was eliminated from the playoffs after losing in overtime to rival Las Vegas in the final game, the team finished the job this time by earning its first Monday night road victory in more than a decade.
Indianapolis (4-10-1) suffered its fifth straight loss under interim coach Jeff on Saturday, though it was a more routine defeat than the previous two, in which it surrendered 33 fourth-quarter points to Dallas and blew a 33-0 halftime lead at Minnesota.
Foles, making his first start for the Colts, fumbled two first-quarter scoring chances. Herbert struggled early as well, until Ekeler scored the game’s first points midway through the second quarter on a short TD run.
The Colts used two personal foul calls that resulted in the ejection of Pro Bowl safety Derwin James to drive for the game’s only score, a 46-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin.
But that was the end of the Colts’ season. Dicker’s two field goals brought the score to 13-3, and Ekeler’s second scoring run sealed the victory.
Ekeler had 18 carries for 67 yards, became the fourth player in 15 years to score at least 15 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons, and fell one reception short of becoming the league’s sixth 100-catch running back.
Herbert finished 24 of 31 and his three-game streak of 300-yard games came to an end. Keenan Allen caught 11 passes for 104 yards and has now surpassed 100 yards in six consecutive road games.
Foles finished 17 of 29 for 143 yards with one interception in the third quarter. In his first NFL start since Dec. 26, 2021, with Chicago, the Super Bowl MVP after the 2017 season was sacked seven times.
The Colts have already fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady and coach Frank Reich, and quarterback Matt Ryan has been benched twice. On Monday night, Ryan was inactive behind Foles and backup Sam Ehlinger.
During an interview that aired on ESPN’s pregame show, team owner Jim Irsay discussed the future of his organisation. Saturday, according to Irsay, will be a candidate to keep his job next season.
“I’m going in with an open mind, looking for the best way for us to win,” Irsay said. “Jeff I believe is an outstanding candidate so, obviously, he’s competitive for that. Chris Ballard will be our general manager and quarterback, but the direction we’ll take is still up in the air.”
After missing two games due to a quadriceps injury, James returned, but he didn’t even make it through the first half.
With 5:18 remaining in the game, James was ejected for hitting a defenceless receiver with the crown of his helmet, two plays after being called for a facemask when Michael Pittman Jr.’s helmet came off. Colts receiver Ashton Dulin was taken to the locker room after the hit, and he was eventually ruled out with a concussion.
UP NEXT: The Chargers return home to face the Rams in the Battle of Los Angeles on Sunday.
Colts: The Colts finish their road trip against the New York Giants on New Year’s Day.