Chargers defense takes care of Colts; Clinch playoff spot with victory

Chargers clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2018.

It has been a rollercoaster season for the Chargers. There have been injuries, struggles, coaching rumors, and almost everything imaginable. Well, after the Chargers 20-3 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, that is all pushed to the side.

The Chargers are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2018. It will be the first time that quarterback Justin Herbert gets to play in the postseason in his young career.

It is also the first time that Chargers head coach Brandon Staley will coach a playoff game. His team is playing good football, but he feels it is not their best yet.

“I think it’s probably somewhere in between that,” Staley said. “I don’t think we’ve played our best as a team yet. I think that that’s still out there for us, but I think that we’re exhibiting a lot of the toughness, doing a lot of the things that you need in order to be successful. Taking the football away, you know, being good on third down on defense, keeping the explosive, keeping a roof on the coverage, tackling well.

“On offense, I thought the second half was a little bit more like us. I thought we did a good job at the end of the half there finishing with the ball, and I thought we ran the football better in the second half. But we still can score the ball a lot better than what we’re doing.”

Here are three takeaways from Monday night’s victory:

  1. Chargers are headed to the postseason.

The Chargers didn’t wait until the last minute to clinch a playoff spot. They didn’t have to wait until the final game of the season like they did last year. They took care of business with two weeks to spare.

They are headed to the playoffs for the first time in the Herbert era.

“I think it’s a great sign for all the hard work that we put in this year,” Herbert said. “We’ve definitely dealt with our adversity our fair share. But the story of the day was the defense stepping up big time getting those stops. There’s plenty of room for improvement for our offense. But it’s a good sign for us of things to come.”

There aren’t many players left from the 2018 team that made the divisional round, but the longest-tenure Chargers player is receiver Keenan Allen.

“Sounds amazing,” Allen said. “Everything we worked for, everything we were here for. We are in the fight. All the details and everything will mean a little more here these last two weeks, and hopefully we can keep getting better.”

The Chargers should be a team to watch for, especially because Herbert hasn’t played a down in the playoffs. Anything can happen once a team makes the playoffs; the uncertainty should be captivating. 

“It will be a lot of fun,” Herbert said. “Just excited to be in that atmosphere and to have that opportunity to keep playing football.”

2. Chargers defense is hitting its stride.

There has been criticism all season of Brandon Staley and his defense. For the last few weeks, they have been clicking at the right time. They took it to Colts quarterback Nick Foles and the offense on Monday night.

The Chargers defense sacked him seven times, hit him nine times, and had three interceptions of Foles. They swarmed him all game long and kept him from mustering up any offensive rhythm. That is what good defenses do!

The Chargers have struggled to get off the field, but it hasn’t been an issue in the last three games. Against the Colts, they held them down for 0-for-10 on third down and even 1-for-4 on fourth down.

“It was a complete performance,” Staley said. “It was a dominant performance, and certainly one that we expect. But I’m really proud of the guys because they’ve come together and made it happen, and our players deserve all the credit.”

Are the Chargers a good/great defense?

Too early to tell, but they are hitting their stride. They are showing toughness and grit, especially with missing several key players.

Players like Breiden Fehoko, Morgan Fox, Kyle Van Noy, and others have truly stepped up and made a difference.

“I think the reason why we’re here is because of the men on our football team, coaches, players,” Staley said. “We’ve got the makeup to withstand the type of season that we’ve had, and I think that we would not be here today if it were not for the toughness of our football team, the makeup of our football team.”

3. The offense needs to wake up.

There has been a noticeable struggle with the Chargers offense. They haven’t been able to score a touchdown in the third quarter in ten weeks. They have struggled to score more than 27 points since the bye week.

Since the bye week, they have missed receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, but they still need to score more points. In the playoffs, the top three teams score 29.2 (Chiefs), 28.0 (Bills), and 26.1 (Bengals). The Chargers are only scoring 22.1 points per game.

“I don’t think we’ve played our best football,” Herbert said. “I think the defense has done an incredible job these past couple of weeks, I think offensively we can be better. We can limit turnovers and that starts with me, we can limit penalties, just being able to convert on third down and things like that.”

They need to improve before the playoffs so they have an opportunity against the Rams and Broncos to correct their offensive woes.

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