Chargers reach playoffs, beat Foles, overmatched Colts 20-3
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Austin Ekeler scored on two 1-yard runs and the Los Angeles Chargers clinched their first playoff berth since 2018, intercepting Indianapolis quarterback Nick Foles three times to beat the overmatched Colts 20-3 on Monday night.
Justin Herbert threw for 235 yards and Cameron Dicker made two short field goals for the Chargers (9-6), who won their third straight after getting the help they needed this weekend from Las Vegas, Miami, New England and the New York Jets. When all four lost, the Chargers just needed a win to reach the postseason for the first time with Herbert and just the second time since 2014.
And unlike last season, when Los Angeles lost in overtime to rival Las Vegas in the final game to miss the playoffs, it finished the job this time by earning its first Monday night road victory in more than a decade.
Indianapolis (4-10-1) lost its fifth straight under interim coach Jeff Saturday, though this was a more ho-hum defeat than the previous two, when it gave up 33 fourth-quarter points to Dallas and blew a 33-0 halftime lead at Minnesota.
Foles, making his first start for the Colts, squandered two first-quarter scoring chances by throwing picks. Herbert also struggled early until Ekeler scored the first points of the game with his short TD run midway through the second quarter.
The Colts took advantage of two personal foul calls that led to the ejection of Pro Bowl safety Derwin James to drive for their only score of the game, a 46-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin.
But that was it for the Colts. Dicker’s two kicks made it 13-3, and Ekeler’s second scoring run sealed the victory.
Ekeler had 18 carries for 67 yards, became the fourth player in 15 years to score at least 15 TDs in back-to-back seasons and fell one reception short of posting the sixth 100-catch season by a running back in league history.
Herbert was 24 of 31 as his streak of consecutive 300-yard games ended at three. Keenan Allen caught 11 passes for 104 yards and has topped the 100-yard mark in six straight road games.
Foles was 17 of 29 for 143 yards and threw his final interception in the third quarter. The Super Bowl MVP after the 2017 season with Philadelphia was sacked seven times in his first NFL start since Dec. 26, 2021, with Chicago.
The Colts have already fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady and coach Frank Reich and have benched quarterback Matt Ryan twice. Ryan was inactive behind Foles and backup Sam Ehlinger on Monday night.
Team owner Jim Irsay addressed the future of his organization during an interview that aired on ESPN’s pregame show. Irsay said Saturday will be a candidate to keep the job next season.
“I will go into it open-minded, and I will be looking for the best direction for us to win,” Irsay said. “Jeff I believe is an outstanding candidate so, obviously, he’s competitive for that. Chris Ballard will be our general manager and the quarterback, it’s very much up in the air right now on what direction we’ll be going.”
James returned after missing two games with a quadriceps injury, but he didn’t even make it through the first half.
Two plays after being called for a facemask when Michael Pittman Jr.’s helmet came off, James was flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver with the crown of the helmet and was ejected with 5:18 to play. The hit sent Colts receiver Ashton Dulin to the locker room, and Dulin was eventually ruled out with a concussion.
Chargers: Return home to face the Rams in Sunday’s Battle of Los Angeles.
Colts: Close out their road schedule with a New Year’s Day trip to the New York Giants.
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