Chargers are in the playoffs, battle Rams on Sunday
January 5, 2023
For the first time since the 2018 season, the Los Angeles Chargers are returning to the postseason. The Chargers defeated the Indianapolis Colts last Monday Night on the road, 20-3, to clinch a wild-card playoff berth in the 2022 AFC playoffs. Charger head coach Brandon Staley was thrilled with the victory, the third straight win for the Chargers, but assured fans that the Chargers were far from finished.
"This is just the beginning," Staley said. "This not our final goal we expected to be at this point. I am really proud of how this season has gone for our football team and what we have been able to demonstrate in order to make it into the postseason. That is probably what I am most proud of, not just being in it, but how we made it. What it took for us to get in. But this is just the beginning for us."
The Chargers improved to 9-6 for the season, with two games remaining in the regular season. The Colts fell to 4-10-1 on the season. The final score looked impressive, and the stat line looked good, but the Chargers left a lot of points on the field and struggled offensively at times. They never trailed in the game but only led 10-3 at halftime.
The offense had a total of 314 yards in the game, below their season average of 355 yards per game. Quarterback Justin Herbert completed 24 of 31 passes for 235 yards and no touchdowns. Herbert threw one interception and lost a fumble in the game. This was not one of Herbert's better performances. Running back Austin Ekeler rushed for 18 times for 67 yards and two touchdowns.
The Chargers held the Colts to just 173 total yards of offense, had seven sacks, and intercepted three passes in the game. Colts quarterback Nick Foles got his first start of the season and he struggled throughout the game. The defense put constant pressure on Foles, led by veteran linebacker Kyle Van Noy, signed as a free agent in the offseason. In Tuesday's press conference, Staley had a lot to say about Van Noy and his leadership.
"It has meant everything to us," Staley said. "Definitely one of his best games last night. Just kind of a vintage Kyle Van Noy game. Doing a lot of jobs at a high level, running the show. He's a guy that can really connect your defenses as an edge player, which is rare because he kind of thinks like a behind-the- ball linebacker. He thinks like a green dot. He thinks like a coach. You can kind of see that on the tape. There are a lot of things where he makes you smile as a coach because you know he is taking care of it."
Defensive end Morgan Fox, acquired through free agency in the offseason, had two sacks in the Colts game to give him a total of 5.5 sacks for the season. Between Fox and Van Noy, the Chargers have been able to adequately fill the void left by the loss of injured linebacker/edge rusher Joey Bosa, who has been out since Week 3 with a groin tear. It is hoped that Bosa will be back in time for the playoffs.
Cornerback Asante Samuel Jr., a second-round draft pick in 2021, had one of the three interceptions against the Colts. Samuel has been a standout for the Chargers in the secondary this season.
"I think he is the guy that we drafted," Staley said. "You just love his make-up. You love his confidence. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He is up for the challenge. Nothing is too big for him. He can overcome mistakes because he has confidence. He is not sensitive."
The Chargers are currently in the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs out of the seven teams in the conference that will make the post season. If the season ended today, the Chargers would play in the wild-card round at Cincinnati against the Bengals. If the Chargers can move up to the fifth seed before the end of the season, they would take on the winner of the AFC South, the weakest of the four AFC divisions. Their opponent would either be the Jacksonville Jaguars or Tennessee Titans.
Next Sunday, January 1,2023, the Chargers will take on the Los Angeles Rams in an intra-city matchup at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. Game time is 1:25pm and will be televised on CBS. The Rams are coming off a 51-14 crushing victory over the Denver Broncos at SoFi Stadium on Christmas day. The beatdown was so humiliating that it resulted in the firing of Bronco head coach Nathaniel Hackett on Monday after the game.
The Rams are led by quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has won two of three games since he joined the Rams. Mayfield was the first pick overall in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He was traded to the Carolina Panthers before the season and released in Week 14 by the Panthers and immediately picked up by the Rams.
Mayfield and Herbert battled last season at SoFi Stadium when Mayfield was with the Browns. The Chargers won 47-42 in a shootout. Mayfield threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns, while Herbert threw for 398 yards and four touchdowns. This week's game should be just as entertaining.
The Chargers would love to see Herbert have a similar performance as he did last season against Mayfield and the Browns. The Chargers offense has looked out-of-rhythm the past two weeks and needs to start clicking before the playoffs begin.