The nimble foot of Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri is usually spot on. The man has won big games, including the big game. Week 10 found Vinatieri at Qualcomm Stadium in sunny San Diego with his team down two with less than two minutes to go. A 29-yard field goal was all he needed to put his team ahead. The clutch playoff dream-killer lined up for another game winner. Mr. Clutch showed shades of Mr. Norwood and kicked it wide right. Chargers bleed the clock, game over.
That game also saw Indy quarterback Peyton Manning break a not-so-storied franchise record by chucking six interceptions.
A week after the Vikings offense had pulled the pants down of the Chargers defense and spank them unmercifully, San Diego managed to hang on and notch a pivotal win against the reigning Super Bowl champs.
I don’t think we can take too much away from that game, however. It was an aberration on many levels. The Colts had several key players out of the game or leave during due to injury, including wideout Marvin Harrison, tight end Dallas Clark and outside tackle Dwight Freeney- monster playmakers. Even with Manning having a career off day, the fact they came within a kick of winning speaks volumes. The Colts were basically a gimpy, bewildered visage of their normal selves. This Sunday the heavy hitters are back, the RCA Dome will be bumping and I wouldn’t bet on seeing six Manning interceptions.
All that being said, their second meeting this Sunday during the AFC Divisional Playoff game is absolutely, unequivocally a winnable game for the Chargers. The Bolts have won 8 out of 9 games, are hot off a playoff win, and riding the underdog card right into Indy, a team they have already beaten this season. Momentum is massive.
The Chargers have practiced and game planned. Linebacker Shawne Merriman said this week during his radio show on XTRA Sports 1360-AM that the Chargers have pumped in simulated crowd noise during practice. Better to get acclimated to the unforgiving auditory assault.
The only blatant hiccup the Chargers offense seems to have going into the game is the availability of tight end and team leading receiver Antonio Gates. He dislocated his left big toe against the Titans last week and his status varies from iffy to dire. The Chargers website lists his chances of seeing action as an optimistic 50%. While the tight end is listed as doubtful for the game, according to Yahoo! Sports, he’s a game time decision. If he can’t go, Gates’ absence from the offense will be dolefully damaging.
Regarldess of injuries, a rested and primed champion awaits the Chargers. Let’s see what they can do.