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Resilient Defense Plays Lights Out in Win

Posted Oct 14, 2013

The Chargers defense came up with their best performance of the season, keeping the high-powered Colts out of the end zone.

Kendall Reyes uttered just a few syllables of his answer -- it was all he had time for before cracking up.

As reporters crowded around the defensive lineman, a teammate shouted "SACK" before rushing to the locker room showers.  And Reyes, who notched a pivotal quarterback takedown in the fourth quarter, briefly stopped answering his first post-game question and grinned from ear to ear.

The overall defensive effort without Donald Butler and Jarrett Johnson (and former Colt Dwight Freeney) was absolutely crucial. When the Chargers defense plays as it did tonight, you stop what you're doing and smile.

"That's the thing about this game," Reyes said after recollecting himself. "It's the next man up mentality.  That's what we did all week. Everyone stepped up."

In fact, Reyes and the Chargers played the role of interrupters for the better part of 60 minutes on Monday. Andrew Luck was harassed all night, forced to shuffle his feet and throw to his hot receivers instead of downfield. As a direct result, the Colts -- who came into tonight's game moving the chains on exactly one-half of their third down snaps, went 2-for-10 and couldn't sustain drives.

A hard-hitting defense exerted its toll on the Colts offense.  Early in the game, Derek Cox slammed into receiver Reggie Wayne for a hit that made much more of an impact than Wayne's three-yard catch.  Two plays later, Luck felt pressure and threw fast to Coby Fleener, who was violently tackled by a lurking Eric Weddle.

The Colts were forced into one of their eight punts. It's no surprise that Luck exited tonight's contest as a frustrated quarterback.

"We stunk on third down today and a lot of credit to their defense," Luck said. "They had great pressures, a good job covering guys. If we can't convert third down and drives continually stall like that…it's not points for us."

It started, as defensive coordinator John Pagano designed, with stopping the Colts' power running attack. Sometimes that meant wrangling the mobile Luck on scrambles before he could move the chains, as linebacker Andrew Gachkar did in the first quarter. Mostly, it meant corralling Trent Richardson, who managed only 40 rushing yards all night.

On certain plays, like one in the third quarter where Thomas Keiser launched himself at the running back's legs, Richardson moved in reverse.

"It all started with stopping the run tonight," said Keiser. "We had some success getting to their backs and slowing their running game and we earned the right to rush the passer."

And rush the passer they did. Head coach Mike McCoy said Luck was never able to set his feet and step up in the pocket.  The defensive line trio of Reyes, Cam Thomas and Corey Liuget were potent and the end result was a touchdown-less performance from Luck.

"The defense played lights-out the entire game," said McCoy. "Give the defensive line a little credit for getting after the quarterback a little bit."

No sack was timelier than Reyes'. He burst through the Colts line on second down and pulled a hurried Luck to the turf. They settled for yet another field goal instead of getting in the end zone.

"Coach Pagano was doing a great job calling pressures," said Reyes. "We knew if we got Luck off the spot, it would do good things for us. It just worked out for us on that play."

They ended their night with an exclamation point.  Down two scores, Luck had no choice but to pass deep to Wayne.  But with pass rushers closing in, he threw too fast and too high -- and Cox came down with a game-sealing interception.

“That might be the first time, at least professionally, I got the game sealing interception with the clock winding down,” he said.  “It just feels great to win and gives me a morale boost into next week.”

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