By Dave Thomas
In a game that could have a huge bearing on the fortunes of the San Diego Chargers for the remainder of the season, the Bolts are essentially in a must-win situation come Monday night when the Indianapolis Colts pay a visit.
After a big win two weekends ago over the Dallas Cowboys, the Chargers basically went out this past Sunday evening and laid and egg in the Bay Area against long-time adversary Oakland.
With the 27-17 loss to the Raiders, San Diego (2-3) fell into a last-place tie in the AFC West with the aforementioned Raiders, something no Charger fan can likely sleep with at night. Making the loss even more difficult to swallow is the fact that the defeat left the Bolts 3 full games behind first place rivals Denver and Kansas City, who both sit at 5-5 heading into their respective contests this Sunday with Jacksonville and Oakland.
Given that the Chargers can in all reality avoid any more slip ups the rest of the way (win the games they are supposed to, upset some teams they are not favored to beat), what will the Colts provide as far as a challenge come Monday evening?
Luck is on the Colts Side
For starters, Indy and young quarterback Andrew Luck are proving that they were not just a flash in the pan a season ago when they went 11-5, one year removed from future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.
Having thrown for nearly 4,400 yards a season ago in his rookie year, Luck is off to another strong start this season through five games. With more than 1,100 yards passing and seven touchdowns against a pair of interceptions, Luck has the Colts sitting atop the AFC South at 4-1 heading into Monday’s showdown. While defending division champ Houston was the darling of many experts coming into this season, Luck and the Colts have made it clear (along with Tennessee) that the Texans are certainly not a forgone conclusion to win the AFC South in 2013.
Chargers Searching for an Identity
Meantime, the Chargers come into the contest looking for an identity, having been in every game this season, yet only coming away with a pair of victories (Philadelphia, Dallas). Crushing last-second losses to Houston and Tennessee have the Bolts in a precarious position, one in which they could be another step closer to missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
While season-ending injuries to former Colt Dwight Freeney and starting wide receiver Malcom Floyd have certainly impacted the Chargers, a lack of consistency has been their biggest fault through five games.
Going into the Indianapolis game, the Chargers have some issues resulting from injuries, most notably the health of starting running back (concussion), rookie linebacker Manti Te’o (foot), veteran linebacker Jarret Johnson, rookie offensive lineman D.J. Fluker (calf), and corner Shareece Wright (hamstring).
Mathews suffered a concussion in Sunday’s loss at Oakland, further limiting what has been a shaky at best running game to begin with. San Diego only managed a paltry 36 yards rushing on 19 carries in the loss, numbers that basically spell out defeat at any level of football. While Mathews did practice on Friday, Fluker was limited in his reps.
Meantime, some injuries at the corner position, along with the likelihood that Johnson is not ready to go Monday night, could give Luck ample time and ability to pick apart San Diego’s defense.
Chargers Injury Report
Linebacker – Donald Butler (groin, did not practice)
Guard/Tackle – Jeromey Clary (clavicle, full practice)
Tackle – King Dunlap (concussion, full practice)
Tackle – D.J. Fluker (calf, limited practice)
Linebacker – Jarret Johnson (hamstring, did not practice)
Corner – Richard Marshall (groin, did not practice)
Running Back – Ryan Mathews (concussion, full practice)
Center/Guard – Rich Ohrnberger (groin, full practice)
Corner – Johnny Patrick (chest, full practice)
Guard – Chad Rinehart (toe, did not practice)
Linebacker – Manti Te’o (foot, full practice)
Corner – Shareece Wright (hamstring, full practice)
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.