Here is a six-pack of the top lessons learned from the 26-22 loss to the Colts:
1. Can't Miss Layups– Philip Rivers used the basketball term to refer to the number of simple plays the offense failed to execute. Between dropped balls and off throws, the offense was out of sync and failed to convert what number 17 referred to as "gimme" plays. Running Back Melvin Gordon called the offense sloppy, saying it is not indicative of what the team stands for:
"Nobody is perfect out here. It is football. You will make mistakes, even the best of them do, so like I said, we have to get back in the film room and tighten up. We played pretty sloppy today. I don't think we played Chargers football. This wasn't our best football. We will figure it out."
2.Failure to Finish– San Diego's second loss was reminiscent of their first as the team failed to finish on both sides of the ball down the stretch. Looking to run out the clock, the offense picked up a pair of first downs before Rivers couldn't connect with Travis Benjamin on 3rd-and-3. The defense forced Indianapolis into a 4th-and-7 at the two minute warning, but couldn't get the stop to seal the game as T.Y. Hilton picked up just enough to move the chains. Shortly thereafter, Hilton raced 63-yards for the game-winning score. San Diego couldn't march down the field for their own drive as Hunter Henry had the ball popped loose in the final minute. Once again, Head Coach Mike McCoy lamented the team's inability to put the game away:
"Like I told the team, we have to put teams away when we have the opportunity to do it. At some time, when you have an opportunity when there is a four-minute drive, a two-minute stop, so it is never just one play, it's never just one series, as we all know in this game, in the NFL, more often than not, it comes down to making those plays at the end of the game."
3. Another Game, Another Injury–After the offense lost Keenan Allen in Week 1 and Danny Woodhead Week 2 for the season, the defense saw a key contributor fall against the Colts as Manti Te'o went down with an Achilles injury. McCoy announced on Monday that the inside linebacker tore it and will miss the remainder of the season. The defensive captain made a cut to cover Frank Gore in the flat in the first quarter and immediately dropped to the turf in pain. He eventually was carted into the locker room. An expectedly somber Te'o addressed the injury in the locker room:
"This is nothing compared to what is going on in my head and my heart. I have been playing this game for 20 years. I have been playing this game since I was five and all my family is in my head and my family here with the Chargers and we just had so many big dreams. I had so many big dreams for my team. Just because I am down does not mean that it is over and it is still going, but I just wish I could be right there with them. I am still going to be there just like I was in the second half, but I am not going to be out there with them and that is the thing that hurts the most. It is where I am most comfortable. It is where I have the most fun. It's stuff like that that happens."
4. Pricey Penalties–Costly penalties by the defense gave the Colts too many second chances. McCoy cited five occasions where a flag gave Indianapolis a fresh set of downs. In fact, after it looked like the Chargers limited the damage to a 55-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri, a leverage penalty on Tenny Palepoi allowed the Colts to continue the drive. Instead of three, Indy ended the drive with a six-yard touchdown run. That four point swing proved pivotal as the home team won by that exact differential. McCoy explained his team has to play more disciplined:
"There were a number of them during the game, but there were five first downs. It's something we have to obviously eliminate…. There are going to be (flags each game) whether it's a holding or a contact penalty, but to have that many in a game is way too many. We're going to play aggressively, but we have to make sure we don't penalize our team."
5. Reid Rumbles– Caraun Reid has made an impact since being claimed off waivers, and gave the Bolts a spark at the end of the first half. After Jatavis Brown ripped the ball out of Andrew Luck's hands, Reid scooped it and darted 61 yards for the score to tie the game. His TD followed Casey Hayward's interception earlier in the quarter. The cornerback now has three on the year, which is tied for the most by a Charger in a single season since 2011. Nonetheless, although Reid's TD was a memorable moment, he was more focused on the team's failure to pull out the win:
"It was cool just to be able to be in that position. I was happy to capitalize on the opportunity….(Today's loss was) all execution. It all comes down to that – just taking advantage of every opportunity. It's disappointing when it doesn't happen."
6. Red Zone Struggles– Sunday marked a rare occasion where the offense struggled in the red zone with Rivers at the helm. The team got inside the 20 on four occasions, but were only able to find pay dirt once. They settled for field goals twice and turned it over once on a strip sack. McCoy noted how red zone success has been a strength of the offense, stressing a need to get into the end zone:
"Give the Colts credit for what they did to take some things away but I know a couple plays (where) there were some missed opportunities. That is one of our strengths. The success we have had in the red area historically, so we have to finish with touchdowns in the red area. It is that third down, that four-point play you always talk about, converting on third down to give yourself a touchdown or more opportunities to score a touchdown."