By Dave Thomas
Losses are always tough to take in the NFL, but especially so when they come against your rival, a team on paper that you in all likelihood should beat more times than not.
In what was unusual circumstances to begin with, the San Diego Chargers left the Bay Area early Monday with their third loss of the season, a 27-17 setback at the hands of the hated Oakland Raiders.
The game was pushed back to 8:30 p.m. local time in order for the Coliseum to be transformed from a baseball diamond (A’s played playoff games there Friday and Saturday) to a football field. For those that watched San Diego’s first half performance (trailed 17-0 at intermission), they may have thought it was past the Chargers bedtime the way they performed for the first 30 minutes of action.
Down 17 points to start the third quarter, San Diego (2-3) worked its way back into the game, at one point pulling within 24-17. That rally would go by the wayside as quarterback Philip Rivers threw two crucial interceptions down the stretch, allowing the Raiders to pull into a last place tie with their rivals to the south in the AFC West.
So, where does a team that held some promise under new head coach Mike McCoy go from here one-third of the way into the season?
Will Chargers Bounce Back Against Indy?
The next stop on the Chargers 2013 campaign is a Monday night (Oct. 14) visit from the 4-1 Indianapolis Colts.
While the Colts were a surprise a season ago under new quarterback Andrew Luck, the expectation level has obviously risen in the nation’s heartland. Indianapolis comes into next Monday’s game atop the AFC South, a division many likely before the season pegged as Houston’s to win or lose. While that may still hold true, it is rather safe to say that very few now are overlooking the Colts.
In a wild 34-28 home win over Seattle this past Sunday, the Colts got a two-touchdown passing performance from Luck, though his numbers were rather average for the day (16-of-29, 229 yards, sacked twice).
Recently acquired running back Trent Richardson (Cleveland) rushed for 56 yards on 18 carries, but it was the receiving efforts of third round 2012 Draft pick T.Y. Hilton (five catches, 140 yards, two TDs) that gained the most attention.
On defense, Indianapolis was led by linebacker Jerrell Freeman (seven solo tackles), while fellow linebacker Robert Mathis recorded a pair of sacks.
While the Colts enter Monday’s game as a slight favorite (1.5 points, according to early odds), this is a contest that the Chargers absolutely must have if they are to get back into the AFC Wild Card race.
Given that both Denver and Kansas City sit at 5-0 in the AFC West, San Diego’s hopes of winning the division come December seem all but a distant hope at this point.
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.