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Colts 2016 season in review: Week three win over the Chargers

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

As part of our look back at the 2016 season for the Indianapolis Colts, we’re taking a look at each game the team played this season. We know that won’t be the most fun experience for Colts fans, but we’re taking a look back at each game within the context of the entire season. Today, we continue with the week three win over the Chargers:

What Happened:

After an 0-2 start, the Colts returned home in week three for a crucial game against the San Diego Chargers. Unlike the previous two games, the Colts actually got off to a fast start in this one, opening up a 10-0 first quarter lead after an Adam Vinatieri field goal and Frank Gore touchdown run. The second quarter wasn’t as good for the Colts, however, as they were outscored 13-3 to enter halftime tied. The Colts had two turnovers in the quarter that helped contribute to the Chargers’ cause, and by mid-3rd quarter the Chargers had taken a 19-13 lead. The Colts answered with a score of their own, capping a drive with a one-yard Robert Turbin touchdown to re-take the lead, 20-19. San Diego once again took the lead midway through the fourth quarter as they hit a field goal to go up 22-20, and after the teams then traded punts, Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton saved the day. With just 1:17 left, Luck hit Hilton on a slant in-between two defenders, Hilton made a move, and he was off on a 63-yard catch and run to put the Colts up 26-22. That would prove to be the final score, and the Colts would avoid the 0-3 start and instead improve to 1-2 heading to London.

What We Said at the Time:

The Colts improved to 1-2 on the season heading to London next week to face the Jaguars and were the only AFC South team to win this weekend, putting them right back in the mix in the division race. The Texans have the AFC South lead at 2-1, but the Colts and the Titans are then right there in the mix at 1-2 followed by the Jaguars at 0-3. It’s hard to overstate how crucial this win was for Indianapolis, and in the end, the Colts delivered.

What We’re Saying Now:

The win was indeed a huge one for the Colts, because falling to 0-3 would have essentially ended the season before it really even got started. Looking back on this game, however, it’s impact probably was the biggest on Chuck Pagano. Imagine this scenario: the Colts, after losing their first two games, drop another game to the Chargers before going to London to lose to the Jaguars. All that changes in that scenario from reality is the game-winning touchdown from Luck to Hilton against the Chargers, as if they didn’t score there the Colts could have started the season 0-4 heading back from London. Think Jim Irsay would have made a change at head coach? It’s possible, but it’s hard to imagine Chuck Pagano recovering from an 0-4 start to the season. That would have pretty much sealed both his and the Colts’ fates in 2016. Instead, though, the win brought the Colts to 1-2 (and then eventually 1-3), but getting that first win was huge. In hindsight, this was a crucial game in keeping the Colts at least competitive in the AFC South as the season went on, but ultimately it didn’t matter as the Colts couldn’t take care of business in other games and finished third in the division.