There is no question that the Patriots are considered the most hated rival of Colts fans. But, if you asked those same people to pick the most annoying nemesis, I’m guessing it would be the Chargers. Entering tonight’s Monday Night Football showdown in San Diego, the Colts have dropped five of seven meetings with the Chargers in the last decade. Six of those seven games were decided by single-digits, with two being decided in overtime. Although none of those Colts or Chargers teams have much to do with the two taking the field tonight, it is interesting to look back at some of the heartbreak:
2005 – San Diego 26, Indianapolis 17
The Colts had just survived a tough road game in Jacksonville to preserve their undefeated start (sound familiar?), becoming just the fourth team in NFL history to begin the year 13-0. Indy actually rallied from a 16-0 third quarter deficit to take a 17-16 lead, but a Nate Keading field goal put the Chargers back in front, and an 83-yard touchdown run by Michael Turner sealed the game in the fourth. San Diego ran for over 200 yards in the upset. Indy lost the next week when they began resting starters in Seattle, and we all know what happened in the Divisional Round against Pittsburgh – no need to bring that back up again…
2007 – San Diego 23, Indianapolis 21
Much like the 2005 game, the Colts were coming off a strong start to the season, although they had been handed their first loss of the year by the Patriots the week prior. Peyton Manning threw a career-high six interceptions, but the defense put the Colts in a position to win the game after Clint Session intercepted Philip Rivers at midfield with five minutes left. Adam Vinatieri hooked a 29-yard field field goal attempt from the far left hashmark too far to the right with 1:34 left to lock up the win for the Chargers. To make things worse, the Colts lost Dwight Freeney for the season due to a Lisfranc injury and their pass rush was never the same.
2007 Divisional – San Diego 28, Indianapolis 24
More so than the 2005 loss to Pittsburgh, I believe this to be the biggest flop in Colts’ playoff history. Indianapolis entered as a 10 ½ point favorite, and watched as the hobbled Chargers lost their quarterback (Rivers) and running back (LaDainian Tomlinson) to injury during the game, and their best pass-catcher (Antonio Gates) was on one leg. Backup Billy Volek led a game-winning, 8-play/78-yard touchdown drive which ate up half of the fourth quarter clock and Indy failed to convert a 4th & Goal on the next possession. It was the last Colts’ game ever played at the RCA Dome.
2008 Wild Card – San Diego 23, Indianapolis 17 F/OT
Sometimes, the NFL’s playoff format is unkind. That was certainly the case when the 12-win Colts, who lost the AFC South to 13-win Tennessee, had to travel to San Diego to take on the 8-8 AFC West champion Chargers. The Colts were victims of perhaps the greatest postseason punting performance in NFL history. All six of Mike Scifres’ punts pinned the Colts inside their own 20-yard line, and he averaged almost 53 yards per attempt. The Colts’ starting field position in their twelve possessions: IND 10, IND 19, IND 3, IND 33, IND 7, IND 20, IND 26, IND 9, IND 20, IND 21, IND 1, IND 19. Compare that to the Chargers who started on their own 34-yard line or better on five different drives. Oh, and Darren Sproles went crazy, going for 328 all-purpose yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime.