The Los Angeles Chargers tried to maintain their postgame playoff celebration personal.
No such luck. After shaking arms and strolling off the sector in Indianapolis, gamers jogged via a tunnel to blaring music, high-fives and hugs and headed right into a first-time locker room scene for a lot of of those Chargers — a playoff celebration.
Austin Ekeler scored on two 1-yard runs and Los Angeles clinched its first postseason berth since 2018, intercepting Nick Foles 3 times to beat the overmatched Colts 20-3 on Monday evening.
“We’re in it, now let’s go win it!” one participant screamed earlier than reporters had been allowed into the locker room.
The bash included second-year coach Brandon Staley handing a sport ball to proprietor Dean Spanos, whose group earned its second playoff spot since 2014, rather less than a 12 months after a brutal additional time loss at Las Vegas in final season’s finale sport saved LA out of the postseason.
Justin Herbert threw for 235 yards and Cameron Dicker made two brief subject targets for the Chargers (9-6), who gained their third straight after getting the assistance they wanted this weekend from Las Vegas, Miami, New England and the New York Jets. When all 4 misplaced, the Chargers merely wanted a win to clinch a playoff spot, they usually did their part.
“It’s been some time,” receiver Keenan Allen mentioned after catching 11 passes for 104 yards, his sixth straight 100-yard sport on the highway. “The playoffs are by no means assured, so whenever you get in, it feels good. Now the season begins.”
Indy (4-10-1) misplaced its fifth straight below interim coach Jeff Saturday, although this was a extra ho-hum defeat than the earlier two, when it gave up 33 fourth-quarter factors to Dallas and blew a 33-0 halftime lead at Minnesota.
Foles, making his first Colts begin, squandered two first-quarter scoring probabilities by throwing picks, wound up getting sacked seven instances and went 0 for 10 on third down.
As normal, although, Indy’s third beginning quarterback of the season was solely a part of the issue.
“We began out, thought we had some photographs early however clearly the turnovers damage you and dissuade you to maintain doing it,” Saturday mentioned. “We ran the ball properly, however when it’s second-and-14, it’s exhausting to catch again up. I believed we ran the ball successfully however couldn’t keep it up.”
Herbert additionally struggled early till Ekeler scored the primary factors of the sport together with his brief TD run halfway via the second quarter.
The Colts took benefit of two private foul calls that led to the ejection of Professional Bowl security Derwin James to drive for his or her solely rating of the sport, a 46-yard subject purpose by Chase McLaughlin.
However that was it for the Colts. Dicker’s two kicks made it 13-3, and Ekeler’s second scoring run sealed the victory.
Ekeler had 18 carries for 67 yards, became the fourth participant in 15 years to attain at the very least 15 TDs in back-to-back seasons and wishes yet one more catch to publish the sixth 100-catch season by a working again in league historical past.
Whereas Herbert went 24 of 31 and his three-game streak of 300-yard video games ended, the numbers didn’t matter. The win did.
“It was robust to lose to the Raiders on the finish (final 12 months),” Herbert mentioned. “The blokes in that locker room deserve this. So it’ll be thrilling to have that opportunity.”
Foles was 17 of 29 for 143 yards and threw his remaining interception within the third quarter. The Tremendous Bowl MVP after the 2017 season with Philadelphia was sacked seven instances in his first NFL begin since Dec. 26, 2021, with Chicago.
The Colts have already fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady and coach Frank Reich and have benched quarterback Matt Ryan twice. Ryan was inactive behind Foles and backup Sam Ehlinger on Monday evening.
Group proprietor Jim Irsay addressed the way forward for his group throughout an interview that aired on ESPN’s pregame present. Irsay mentioned Saturday can be a candidate to maintain the job subsequent season.
“I’ll go into it open-minded, and I can be on the lookout for one of the best path for us to win,” Irsay mentioned. “Jeff I imagine is an impressive candidate so, clearly, he’s aggressive for that. Chris Ballard can be our basic supervisor and the quarterback, it’s very a lot up within the air proper now on what path we’ll be going.”
James returned after lacking two video games with a quadriceps harm, however he didn’t even make it via the primary half.
Two performs after being known as for a facemask when Michael Pittman Jr.’s helmet got here off, James was flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver with the crown of the helmet and was ejected with 5:18 to play. The hit despatched Colts receiver Ashton Dulin to the locker room, and Dulin was ultimately dominated out with a concussion.
Staley mentioned James additionally entered the concussion protocol, including that the helmet-to-helmet hit was unintentional.
“He made an aggressive play however he didn’t deliberately go for the helmet,” Staley mentioned.
Chargers: Return house to face the Rams in Sunday’s Battle of Los Angeles.
Colts: Shut out their highway schedule with a New 12 months’s Day journey to the New York Giants.
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