NFL Playoffs: Reliving Los Angeles Chargers’ top 3 wins in the Wild Card round

By Travis Wakeman
SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 03: Darren Sproles #43 of the San Diego Chargers scores the winning touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during their AFC Wild Card Game on January 3, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 03: Darren Sproles #43 of the San Diego Chargers scores the winning touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during their AFC Wild Card Game on January 3, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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SAN DIEGO – JANUARY 03: Darren Sproles #43 of the San Diego Chargers scores the winning touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during their NFL Wild Card Game on January 3, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO – JANUARY 03: Darren Sproles #43 of the San Diego Chargers scores the winning touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during their NFL Wild Card Game on January 3, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) /

January 3, 2009,  vs. Indianapolis Colts

There is no doubt that this is the greatest victory ever for the Chargers in the Wild Card round, and that is for several reasons.

The Colts were 12-4 that year but because the Tennessee Titans were 13-3, they were a Wild Card and had to go on the road (sound familiar?). By virtue of being the AFC West champions, the Chargers were able to host the game.

The Chargers finished 8-8 that season and had to beat the Denver Broncos in the season finale to clinch the division. Though they were just a .500 team, they had won four games in a row and were red hot entering the postseason.

But that would be no matter for Peyton Manning and the Colts, right? That’s what most fans and analysts figured. They were wrong.

This was a day in which Darren Sproles had his best game as a professional, which is saying something since the Chargers still had LaDainian Tomlinson.

Sproles racked up 328 all-purpose yards in the game, the third-most in NFL postseason history. But it was his final play that will always be remembered.

The game was tightly contested throughout, but the Colts seemed to have the upper hand toward the end. A key punt in the fourth quarter pinned the Colts at their own 1-yard line. Clinging to a 3-point lead, Manning was just looking for one first down in order for the Colts to be able to kill the clock.

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But on 3rd-and-2, Tim Dobbins made an exceptional play to sack Manning and force a punt. On the ensuing punt, Sproles returned it 26 yards to the Colts’ 38-yard line. Rivers would hit Antonio Gates and Sproles with some clutch passes to set up a field-goal attempt for Nate Kaeding. He drilled it from 26 yards out to tie the game with 31 seconds left.

Into overtime, the game went and the Chargers won the coin toss. With all of the momentum on their side, they went to work on the Colts’ defense, knowing that a touchdown would send them to the next round.

The Colts committed a pair of critical penalties on the drive and then, this play happened (video).

It set off pandemonium in San Diego and marks the last time the Chargers won a playoff game in San Diego, a game and a performance by a 5-foot-6 running back that will last forever.

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