In what felt like déjà vu to Week 1, the San Diego Chargers once again could not finish the game when they had the chance. Though, the 26-22 loss to the Indianapolis Colts wasn't just on one phase of football; all three contributed to the team's defeat.
"We have to put teams away when we have the opportunity," Head Coach Mike McCoy said. "Or, even earlier, make those plays early in the game so it's not close. We didn't do that for four quarters. We got off to a bad start during the game and missed a number of opportunities. You look at all three phases, there were some mistakes; the muffed punt (and) you can go on and on."
While the team had many miscues throughout the game, their costliest ones came towards the end in the fourth quarter when the team needed to hold strong the most.
After getting out to a 22-20 lead roughly halfway through the final quarter of play, the Chargers were tasked with holding Indianapolis for the remainder of the game to keep the lead.
With 2:40 left, the Chargers made it down to their own 47 and only needed three yards to move the chains. Philip Rivers dropped back and tried to hit Travis Benjamin but the pass was too strong and the incomplete ball forced a San Diego punt. That specific play was the one that Rivers lamented the most about after the game.
"Of all the plays I missed today, I wished I hit the one to Travis on 3rd-and-2 because we were running that thing down," Rivers said. "We may end up with it in our hands at mid-field, and (I) just missed it…. It just came out a little high and hot, and he couldn't make the play on it."
The Colts then got the ball back with a little over 2:30 in the game and for three plays, the Chargers defense held strong. After forcing Andrew Luck to throw incomplete on second and third down, in attempt to surmount a comeback, Indy had no chance but to go for it on fourth down from their own 20. They converted, and ultimately, that conversion sustained a drive that ended in a 63-yard touchdown connection from Luck to T.Y. Hilton.
"We had a chances to stop them, like on that fourth down, it was really close and they got it by half a yard," said Casey Hayward. "But it's a game of inches and they got it. (But) this was in all three phases. It wasn't just on one phase; we have to find a way in all three phases to win. If we can get a big return on special teams, we can score on offense and get turnovers on defense."
Finally, the offense had one final opportunity to put the game away but a costly fumble by rookie Hunter Henry, which was recovered by the Colts, diminished any chances of a comeback victory.
"It's unfortunate (and) he'd tell you the same thing, but you have to find a way to protect that football in critical situations," McCoy said. "It was a great opportunity to go down there; plenty of time left, couple of time outs to go and win the game. But unfortunately, we turned the ball over. He'll learn from it and move on."
With the Saints coming to town next week, the Chargers must put this one away and move on. It may be easier said than done, but Rivers acknowledged the key to moving on is learning to close out games to clinch a win.
"We just have to win one. We haven't won one like this this…we have to win one like this and then it can become where we expect to…. That is why we play and we'll get another shot at it a week from now."