On Monday night, head coach Brandon Staley and the Los Angeles Chargers received a late Christmas present. The Chargers clinched a playoff berth in front of a primetime audience for the first time since 2018.
The Los Angeles Chargers defeated the Indianapolis Colts 20-3 in Week 16. After halftime, Los Angeles held Indianapolis scoreless and forced three total takeaways.
The Chargers offence, led by Justin Herbert, had a relatively quiet night, but it wasn’t needed much in the playoff-clinching win.
The following are the winners and losers from Monday night’s AFC matchup:
Chargers defence wins
The Chargers defence shut down a listless Colts offence despite missing star safety Derwin James for most of the game (see below).
The Chargers pressed Colts quarterback Nick Foles all night. The Chargers’ front seven outplayed the Colts’ offensive line, and the Chargers’ secondary made life difficult for the Indianapolis pass catchers.
Los Angeles’ defence forced three interceptions and had a season-high seven sacks. The Chargers defence limited the Colts offence to 173 yards total.
Six different players had sacks. For the first time since 2018, the Chargers defence allowed zero touchdowns in a single game.
Austin Ekeler strikes gold once more.
In the win, Ekeler scored two touchdowns, giving him an NFL-high 16 touchdowns from scrimmage this season. Ekeler’s touchdowns were both scored on short yardage runs.
The Chargers running back has a knack for scoring.
Los Angeles’ most consistent target was once again wide receiver Keenan Allen Allen. In the win, he had a game-high 11 catches for 104 yards. Herbert targeted him 14 times.
Allen had at least six receptions and 80 yards for the fourth time in a row.
Justin Herbert makes his first appearance in the playoffs.
Herbert is the first player in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards in all three of his seasons. In the win, he only passed for 235 yards and threw an interception, but he earned his first playoff berth.
The Chargers’ current momentum
Creating positive momentum is critical for playoff teams this time of year. The Chargers have won three straight games. Los Angeles finishes the season against two teams that are under.500 (Los Angeles Rams and Denver Broncos).
Colts offensive line loser
The offensive line for the Colts was atrocious in the loss, allowing seven sacks. Foles was under constant scrutiny. Nine times, the quarterback was hit.
In Week 16, Foles became the Colts’ third starting quarterback of the season. Foles, the Super Bowl 52 MVP with the Philadelphia Eagles, struggled in his first start as a Colts quarterback. He completed 17 of 29 passes for 143 yards and three interceptions.
Despite being an 11-year veteran, Foles was put in a difficult situation. He clearly lacked chemistry with his wide receivers.
Jeff Fisher, the Colts’ interim coach, Saturday
Saturday’s record as the Colts’ interim coach is 1-5. His track record does not bode well for promotion at the end of the season. But, like Foles, he was thrust into a difficult situation. The Colts aren’t a particularly talented team, and their top two players, running back Jonathan Taylor and linebacker Shaquille Leonard, are both injured.
Derwin James leaves the game early.
James started the game with a performance worthy of a winner, but the Chargers safety was ejected from the game in the second quarter after a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit on Colts wide receiver Ashton Dulin.
James was disqualified from the game after being penalised on the play.
At the time of his departure, he had three tackles and one interception.
Third-down efficiency for the Colts
The Colts offence was 0 for 10 on third downs against the Chargers.
On third down, the Colts had the NFL’s 26th-ranked offence entering the night.