SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Chargers came into Monday night’s game against the Indianapolis Colts with the 22nd ranked defense in terms of points allowed. No one — not the experts who almost unilaterally predicted a shootout or even their own fans — saw them doing what they did when they held the Andrew Luck-led Colts to just three field goals in a 19-9 win on a national stage.
In fact, the nine points were the lowest point total in the Luck era, dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season. For a defense that’s had to deal with numerous injuries and personnel issues, it may look like an anomaly, but the players see it more as a sign of things to come.
“It shows what we’re capable of,” said safety Eric Weddle. “We put our minds to it, we listen to our coaches, and we believe. That’s the biggest thing with us is the confidence.”
The Chargers held Indianapolis to just 74 yards on the ground, bottling up running backs Trent Richardson and Donald Brown and halting them in key situations. Though they only created one turnover, it came at an opportune time for San Diego, who held the Colts to just 12 first downs and a 2-of-10 third down conversion rate. Those numbers speak volumes to the growth of the young defense who needed to be at their best to contend with a strong team like Indianapolis.
“Anytime you’re young or it’s your first time playing (on Monday Night Football), your mind’s going so fast,” said Weddle. “After that first series, we shut them down. I couldn’t be more proud of the guys. The coaches — coach Pagano called an unbelievable game.”
Things looked bleak when the Colts came out throwing on a flea-flicker from Luck that found the hands of Reggie Wayne for a 35-yard completion on the first snap from scrimmage as he beat cornerback Derek Cox. The Bolts tightened up quickly, however, and allowed only a field goal on that possession to keep things close.
From there, they took control of the game, and Cox sealed the win by intercepting Luck in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. Afterward, he relished the chance to make the big play.
“That might be the first time, at least professionally, I got the game-sealing interception with the clock winding down,” said Cox after the game. “It just feels great to win and gives me a moral boost into next week.”
The same can be said for the defense as a whole, who needed a game like this to take away the fact that they can compete with anyone. With two undefeated teams in the AFC West, every win is critical and they know that winning division games is a must. They’ll need every bit of self-belief as they navigate through what’s shaping up to be one of the toughest divisions in football.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are next up on Sunday, and showed that their 0-6 record can’t be overlooked. The Chargers will need to be ready and as focused as they were in front of millions on Monday.
Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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