Coming off of a huge win at home against the Seahawks and the week before their biggest game of the season, the Colts travel to San Diego to take on a talented Chargers team. It will be the "New Era" Colts' first game on Monday Night Football, including most notably Andrew Luck's debut. As with every Monday night game, ESPN will broadcast the game with Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden in the booth. The game will be broadcast locally on the radio on WFNI and WHLK by Bob Lamey and Jim Sorgi, and the game will also be on Westwood One Sports Radio with Kevin Harlan and Dan Fouts with the call. Here's all you need to know to get ready for the game.
What Happened Last Week?
The Colts last week had a huge win, coming back from an early deficit and then a back-and-forth game against one of the NFL's best, the Seahawks. Andrew Luck notched another game winning drive and fourth quarter comeback and it was no doubt one of the most fun games to watch. It was a really big win for the Colts too, who improved to 4-1 on the year and have entered into the Super Bowl contention discussion. In power rankings, almost everybody has them ranked in the top five. They proved last week that they are for real, and no matter what happens this week they still will be for real.
The Chargers didn't have nearly as good of a week last week as the Colts did, as San Diego lost to the Oakland Raiders 27-17 and trailed 24-3 at the end of 3 quarters. Terrelle Pryor played great, Phillip Rivers threw 3 picks, and the Chargers gained only 36 yards on 19 carries to add up to the loss to the division rival Raiders. Don't let that loss fool you, however - the Chargers, despite sitting at 2-3 right now, are a dangerous team. That starts with Phillip Rivers, who has rejuvenated his career under new head coach Dennis Allen. Through 5 games this year, Rivers has completed 73.7% of his passes for 1,610 yards, and 13 touchdowns against only 5 picks for a passer rating of 110.6. This game is also a matchup of two of the NFL's best quarterbacks in Andrew Luck and Phillip Rivers, which is what makes the game especially intriguing.
A Game of Connections:
The Colts and Chargers have several connections. Let's look at a few of them:
- Colts head coach Chuck Pagano faces his brother John, who is the defensive coordinator for the Chargers. When asked about it on Thursday, Chuck Pagano said, "It's really kind of a sidebar to be honest with you. It's Colts vs. the Chargers."
- The Colts' defensive coordinator, Greg Manusky, also has Chargers ties, as he held the same position in San Diego in 2011 and had previously served as their linebackers coach from 2002-2006.
- Aubrayo Franklin, the Colts' starting nose tackle, played with the Chargers last year (2012).
- Dwight Freeney signed with the Chargers this offseason after the Colts opted not to re-sign him. Freeney is still the franchise's all-time leader in sacks and one of their best defensive players of all time. Unfortunately (for the game of football, perhaps fortunately for Andrew Luck), Freeney was injured early on this season and was lost for the year, being placed on IR. He was having a good year, too. It is especially painful for him since he won't get the shot to sack Luck or Peyton Manning later in the year either. Robert Mathis, a friend and longtime teammate of Freeney, said this week about the injury: "As a friend, I'm extremely bummed. As a competitor, not that bummed because he won't get a chance to hit my quarterback. (Laughs) But we talk all the time and he knows that it's not going to be the same without him."
- Tom Telesco, the Chargers' general manager, is in his first year as Chargers GM. He spent 15 years with Indianapolis (1998-2012), including time as Director of Player Personnel the last six years and Vice President of Football Operations. He was a candidate for the Colts' GM opening after the 2011 season but they hired Ryan Grigson instead. Still, he was an integral part of the Colts' front office for many years and now gets his well-deserved chance at being an NFL GM.
- The Chargers this week signed defensive lineman Lawrence Guy to their active roster and running back Kerwynn Williams to their practice squad, both of whom were released by the Colts this past week. Coincidence? Probably not - although both are good pickups for the Chargers regardless.
Monday Night Memories:
Several Colts were asked about their thoughts on playing on Monday Night Football. Here's what they had to say:
Chuck Pagano, head coach: "It's great. Monday night, you just think back as a kid growing up. Dandy Don and Howard Cosell. You couldn't wait. Then to be able to coach and play on Monday night. We know what a privilege it is to play and coach at this level, then having the opportunity to play on that stage is exciting. Again, it's kick the ball off. It's another football game and you got to refocus on that."
Andrew Luck, quarterback: "I think it's going to be a lot of fun. Obviously, Monday Night Football has a ring to it. A feel about it. I remember as a kid, always wanting to stay up to watch the second half and being told I had to go to bed. So I hope my Mom lets my brother stay up and watch the second half. It'll be exciting. It's against a good San Diego team on the West Coast. It should be a lot of fun.
Coby Fleener, tight end: "It's nice because you get to sit down with the family. There's nothing else on. For us, it's really exciting because we're going to go all the way to the West Coast and I'll have a lot of family and friends being able to watch this game."
Robert Mathis, outside linebacker: "It's the only show in town, Monday night. Everybody has heard about you, now they're starting to see what you got and you just have to put it on the field."
Cory Redding, defensive end: "Oh man. Just out on the field and the lights on, the nighttime, playing. Everybody is sitting at home eating dinner watching you play. It's just a big stage to play on. It's fun. You love Monday Night Football and you relish the opportunity to play in it."
Reggie Wayne needs just 4 catches to get to 1,000 for his career, becoming only the 9th player ever to reach that mark. Considering the fact that he has a current NFL-record streak going of 69 games in a row (and counting) with 3 or more catches in a game, it's a good chance that he reaches that mark on Monday night. With 5 catches, he would pass Hines Ward and move into 8th place all-time. Also, according to Craig Kelley, with a win Monday night Reggie would move into a 2nd-place tie with Johnny Unitas and Jeff Saturday for career wins with the Colts with 132. That's impressive, and all of those milestones are definitely within reach Monday night.
Here's the Colts' official injury report, from Saturday:
LaRon Landry, safety (ankle)
Bjoern Werner, outside linebacker (foot)
Erik Walden, outside linebacker (elbow)
Stanley Havili, fullback (ankle)
Ricky Jean Francois, defensive tackle (groin)
A quick note: listening to Pagano talk on Saturday, it would seem that Walden will play, despite him being listed as questionable. In fact, he said that "Walden, Erik Walden, Ricky Jean Francois and Stanley Havili are going to go, so those guys are fine." So yeah, there's that. Sounds like Landry and Werner are the only injured guys who won't play Monday, and that comes as no surprise.
This could also be seen as a trap game, despite going against one of the league's best quarterbacks in Phillip Rivers. It is a west coast trip in between a huge win against one of the NFL's two best teams and the week Peyton Manning returns with the other of the two best teams in the NFL. And, of course, the Colts have historically struggled against the Chargers (although that was the Manning Era Colts, we still have yet to see the Luck Era Colts against the Chargers). All of that to say that on this Monday night stage, don't expect a dominating victory. I've been wrong before, but I expect this one to be close. Colts 27, Chargers 24