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2022 NFL season, Week 16: What We Learned from Chargers' win over Colts on Monday night

Los Angeles Chargers
2022 · 9-6-0
Indianapolis Colts
2022 · 4-10-1


  1. Chargers go on the road and get the job done. It wasn't exactly pretty and it didn't include a bunch of Justin Herbert touchdown passes, but that doesn't matter. Los Angeles boarded a flight to Indianapolis, hit the field at Lucas Oil Stadium and took care of business. The Chargers outgained the Colts, 314-173, converted 8 of 18 third downs (and held the Colts to 0-10 on third down), forced three turnovers and trusted Austin Ekeler to punch it in twice, accounting for 12 of the team's 20 points. There were moments of exciting creativity, like the flea-flicker that nearly ended in a highlight-reel touchdown for Keenan Allen, but overall, it wasn't a game that will be featured prominently in the team's yearbook reel. That's fine. The Chargers didn't need to be heroes Monday night. They just needed to be professionals, and they did their job.
  2. There's no light at the end of the Colts' tunnel. Indianapolis can change coaches and quarterbacks all it wants, but the story has remained the same for the majority of 2022. The Colts struggle to move the ball, don't capitalize on most opportunities presented to them, and make too many mistakes to win football games. They're not 4-10-1 by accident -- it's who they are. Jeff Saturday's first win as a coach feels like it happened ages ago, and there's little reason to believe he'll notch another one before his interim audition ends. Nick Foles' first start with the team went about as poorly as one could expect from a player who spent most of the season as the third-string signal-caller. He tossed three interceptions and finished with a passer rating of 31.9. At one point Monday night, ESPN's Troy Aikman wondered aloud if the Colts would consider going to Sam Ehlinger -- you know, the quarterback who got just two starts in 2022 before his head coach was fired -- because it was so obvious Indianapolis didn't stand much of a chance with its current approach. There's no better answer except to accept the offseason arrives in just a couple of weeks. And once the Colts get there, they'll have plenty of work ahead of them.
  3. Don't look now, but the Chargers are heating up at the right time. With his team winning just one of four games between Weeks 7-11, Brandon Staley was inching closer toward the hot seat a little over a month ago. Since then, the Chargers have won four of their last five and are trending in the right direction. They took down two teams in playoff position in each of the last two weeks (Miami and Tennessee, with the latter falling out of the AFC South division lead this week), then played well enough to top a team they were supposed to beat. A key part of their turnaround has been the return of Mike Williams, who played a key role Monday with his four catches for 76 yards, seemingly always finding open space over the middle to keep drives going. Allen has played an important role, too, catching 11 passes for 104 yards Monday night. The most significant change, though, has been Los Angeles' defense, which is on a heater when it comes to pressuring opposing quarterbacks. In the last three games, the Chargers have recorded a combined 13 sacks, including seven against the Colts. Khalil Mack racked up his team-high eighth sack on Monday, while Kyle Van Noy tallied a sack for a third straight game. We've known their offense has been good enough to keep pace (though its ground game still needs to be better), and the defense's improvement is highly encouraging. Now, we wait to see just how far it can take them.
  4. Indianapolis' defense deserves better. One week after allowing Kirk Cousins to throw for 460 yards and complete the largest comeback in NFL history, the Colts responded positively on the defensive side of the ball. Indianapolis kept Herbert out of the end zone, held Ekeler to under four yards per carry, and forced two turnovers that should have helped its offense score some early points. Instead, the Colts defense watched its offense waste those chances, shifting the onus back to the unit that has done most of the work for this team this season. Indianapolis entered Monday ranked 12th in total defense and 10th against the pass, and although it gave up over 300 yards and a third-down conversion rate near 50 percent, it still did enough to keep this game close entering the fourth quarter. The Colts' offense dropped the ball again, though, leading to yet another defeat. It's a tale that's eerily similar to the one spun in Denver, home of another team with just four wins to its name and proceeding without its head coach. That's never good company to share.
  5. Chargers finally clear the playoff hurdle. Los Angeles flirted with postseason berths in recent years, but began 2022 with a playoff drought that extended back to the 2018 season. We can put that factoid in with the mothballs now, thanks to the Chargers' win (and some favorable outcomes elsewhere in the AFC). Los Angeles is back in the postseason for the first time under Staley, who also secured a second consecutive winning season Monday night. January will also bring us Herbert's playoff debut, which will undoubtedly be a highly anticipated game for one of the NFL's brightest young stars under center. There's no telling how far the Chargers might go, but they're playing complementary, team football right now, no matter the opponent. They've overcome plenty of adversity, too, reaching the postseason after losing their Pro Bowl left tackle (Rashawn Slater), star edge rusher (Joey Bosa, who is working his way back to the field) and big-name offseason acquisition (cornerback J.C. Jackson). It wasn't easy, especially when they were forced to play without Williams and/or Allen, but they've accomplished one goal. For that, the Chargers deserve credit.

Next Gen Stat of the game: The Chargers finished with six players with two-plus quarterback pressures and one or more sacks: Khalil Mack, Kyle Van Noy, Drue Tranquill, Morgan Fox, Kenneth Murray and Chris Rumph.

NFL Research: With two rushing touchdowns scored Monday night, Austin Ekeler joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk (2000-2001) as the only players in NFL history to have 10-plus rushing touchdowns and five-plus receiving touchdowns in consecutive seasons.

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