NFL Playoffs: Chargers 23, Colts 17, OT
By Bernie Wilson
SAN DIEGO ó Peyton Manning has his MVP award and nothing more, outdone again in January by the San Diego Chargers.
Speedy little Darren Sproles scooted 22 yards for the winning score 6:20 into overtime and the Chargers beat the Colts 23-17 in an AFC wild-card game Saturday night, ending Indianapolis’ nine-game winning streak a day after Manning won his third Associated Press NFL MVP award.
Sproles came up big on a night when the Chargers played the final 21/2 quarters without LaDainian Tomlinson, who stood on the sideline in obvious discomfort from a groin injury.
Fifty years after the Baltimore Colts won the first overtime game in league history by the same score over the New York Giants for the NFL title, Indianapolis wasn’t so fortunate. It was victimized by Sproles, who rushed 23 times for 105 yards, caught five passes for 45 yards, had 106 yards on four kickoff returns and 72 on three punt runbacks.
The Chargers (9-8) won the overtime toss. Indy’s Darrell Reid called heads, but referee Ron Winter’s flip came up tails. Sproles sent the Chargers into the second round of the playoffs, either at Tennessee or Pittsburgh, by finishing off the only series of overtime with his TD run around left end against an exhausted defense for the Colts (12-5).
San Diego’s winning drive was aided by two defensive holding calls, the second against Tim Jennings on third-and-8. On the next play, Colts linebacker Clint Session was whistled for grabbing Sproles’ facemask. Sproles scored on the next play, shedding a defender at the 5-yard line.
Sproles’ TD run sent Qualcomm Stadium into bedlam. It was San Diego’s fifth straight win; the Chargers needed the previous four victories to secure the AFC West title with an 8-8 record.
Last season, the Chargers pulled off a 28-24 upset at Indianapolis in the divisional round after Rivers and Tomlinson both went out with knee injuries.
San Diego got its first sack of the game at a key time, when Tim Dobbins dropped Manning at the Colts 1 on third down with 2 minutes left, forcing a punt and giving the Chargers the ball at the Indy 38.
Nate Kaeding kicked a 26-yard field goal with 31 seconds left to force )T.
It was the 25th overtime game in the postseason, including one game in the AFL. The last overtime game in the playoffs was last season’s NFC title game, won by the New York Giants and Manning’s little brother, Eli, against Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.