With seven sacks, Chargers’ protection leads rout of Colts

INDIANAPOLIS — Two groups headed in numerous instructions continued on their paths Monday night time because the Los Angeles Chargers (9-6) gained their third straight to clinch a playoff berth with a 20-3 victory over the Indianapolis Colts (4-10-1), who misplaced their fifth straight.

Neither offense was notably sharp as L.A. quarterback Justin Herbert did not throw a landing cross, threw an interception and misplaced a fumble. In the meantime, the Colts turned to veteran Nick Foles as their third beginning QB this season, changing Matt Ryan who wasn’t lively Monday. Foles threw three interceptions with out a TD.

The Chargers’ protection was relentless, sacking Foles seven occasions.

Regardless of Indy’s offense handing over one other torpid recreation, the Colts’ protection continued to play at a excessive stage, sacking Herbert 4 occasions.

Los Angeles Chargers

A dominant defensive efficiency, coupled with well timed performs on offense, supplied the right formulation for the Chargers.

For the primary time since 2018, the Bolts will return to the postseason, incomes their first playoff berth below second-year head coach Brandon Staley.

Getting into Week 16, the Chargers had a direct path to the playoffs in the event that they gained their remaining matchups. Nevertheless, their postseason ticket got here faster than maybe anticipated after the New York Jets, New England Patriots and Las Vegas Raiders every misplaced.

QB breakdown: Herbert overcame an uneven begin — which included throwing a first-quarter interception — to discover a technique to get the Bolts shifting within the first half. Herbert went three-of-six for 20 yards and the choose on the primary three drives, then went 12-of-13 for 125 yards on the ultimate two drives of the primary half. After shedding a sack fumble within the third quarter, Herbert put collectively a 12 play, 88-yard drive that resulted in one-yard landing run by Austin Ekeler that sealed a victory halfway by means of the fourth quarter. Herbert completed 24 of 31 for 235 yards.

Promising development: The protection struggled all through a lot of the season, showing to really feel the consequences of shedding edge rusher Joey Bosa, cornerback J.C. Jackson and a number of other linemen to injured reserve. However, the Staley-led unit is now peaking on the good time. For a fourth consecutive recreation, the Bolts didn’t enable any factors within the first quarter, the longest such streak by the workforce since 2011. Foles was 0-for-4 with an interception and a sack on third down. Three gamers — cornerbacks Michael Davis and Asante Samuel Jr. and security Derwin James Jr. — all intercepted passes.

Sustained excellence: Chargers huge receiver Keenan Allen had 10 receptions in a recreation for the sixteenth time in his profession, the fifth-most since he entered the NFL in 2013. In six video games since coming back from a hamstring damage that sidelined and slowed Allen for 9 video games, he has as soon as once more turn out to be a go-to goal for Herbert. Allen caught 11 passes for 104 yards. — Lindsey Thiry

Below the radar stat that issues: The Chargers’ seven sacks had been their most in a recreation since recording 9 in 2016 towards the Cleveland Browns.

Subsequent recreation: vs. Rams (4:25 p.m., ET, Sunday, Jan. 1)

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts’ third quarterback change of this wayward season failed to supply any significant offensive outcomes, with Indianapolis persevering with to wrestle to maneuver the soccer and put factors on the board.

The Colts had been once more stagnant on offense, producing 173 whole yards and being held to 10 factors or much less for the fourth time this season. Remarkably, the Colts completed 0-for-10 on third downs within the recreation. It was simply Foles’ second begin since November 2020, and it will likely be remembered for misfires and an incapacity to flee defensive stress. Foles threw three interceptions, accomplished simply 17 of 29 cross makes an attempt for 143 yards and was sacked seven occasions.

Largest gap within the gameplan: The Colts got here out firing the ball with an aggressive passing assault, regardless of taking part in a quarterback who had the advantage of solely minimal observe time with the beginning offense since coaching camp. Foles mentioned after he was promoted final week that he had not thrown to the beginning huge receivers and tight ends because the preseason, having spent a lot of the previous a number of months engaged on the scout workforce. That confirmed up nearly instantly, with Foles and his receivers struggling to attach, with plenty of miscommunications.

The Colts are lacking injured operating again Jonathan Taylor, however the Chargers are additionally one of many worst speeding defenses within the NFL. The Colts did not try to lean into the operating recreation till the third quarter.

Troubling development: The Colts once more confirmed promise on protection, harassing Herbert and limiting Los Angeles within the operating recreation. However one thing that has continued to happen in latest weeks is the unit operating out of fuel partly due to the ineffectiveness of the Indianapolis offense. The Colts’ failure to maintain drives and rating constantly has put undue stress on the protection, and the unit hasn’t been capable of keep its efficiency for 4 quarters. It occurred two video games in the past in Dallas, when the Colts dedicated turnovers on 4 straight possessions. And it occurred final week at Minnesota, when Indianapolis crossed the 50-yard line simply twice within the second half. That resulted in a historic comeback win because the Vikings overcame a 33-0 halftime deficit.

Describe the sport in two phrases: Extra disappointment. The Colts have misplaced seven of eight and 5 of six since changing former head coach Frank Reich with Jeff Saturday. Particularly, Indianapolis has given up 113 factors in its previous three video games. — Stephen Holder

Below-the-radar stat that issues: Foles was 4-of-10 for 57 yards with three interceptions on throws of 10+ air yards.

Subsequent recreation: at Giants (1 p.m., ET, Sunday, Jan. 1)