CARSON, CA (News4usonline) – The Los Angeles Chargers caught a break in their season-opener against the Indianapolis Colts. Actually, they caught three lucky breaks in their 30-24 overtime win at Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday.
“We knew that game was going to take four quarters, but it actually took five,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said after the game in his opening remarks. “That team takes on the reflection of its head coach. They have a great leader over there in [Colts Head Coach] Frank Reich. They play hard and they never give up and our locker room is very similar, so it was a hell of a contest today. It’s an exciting game. I’m just glad we came out on the winning side and trust me — it took every man in that locker room to get this done today.”
Those breaks that played as contributing major factors in the Chargers’ victory at home, came in the form of the right leg of Indianapolis placekicker Adam Vinatieri, who missed two missed field goals and an extra point attempt.
Those basically point-blank misses by Vinatieri came back to haunt the Colts as Indianapolis closed the fourth quarter with an offensive surge to tie the game with 38 seconds remaining thanks to some nifty footwork by wide receiver T.Y. Hilton to get into the endzone to complete a 19-yard touchdown reception.
The Chargers finally put an end to the Colts’ upset charade with a game-clinching drive on their first series in the extra period, going 75 yards on eight plays for a touchdown. Running back Austin Ekeler, a marvel all day in the backfield, would do the honors for the Chargers, capping the long drive with a seven-yard touchdown run.
“They just overplayed it to the front side and it opened up a seam through the backside and ran through a tackle and got into the end zone,” Ekeler said. “That’s how we want to finish overtime anytime we get into that situation.”
Finishing off a situation is something that Ekeler did well Sunday. With Melvin Gordon still holding out in a contract dispute with the team, Ekeler provided much of the offensive spark that the Chargers needed against the Colts, rushing for 58 yards and a score on 12 carries. He also caught seven passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns during the game as he flashed his versatility skills.
“My rookie year, I feel like, I was a third down back,” Ekeler said. “I was catching balls, going in and protecting in the passing game. It’s always been a part of what I’m emphasizing through my game and just being more of a football player, not just a running back. I can do it all, special teams as well.”
Ekeler hooked up with quarterback Philip Rivers for a short touchdown collaboration in the first quarter to give the Chargers a 7-0 jump on the Colts. His three touchdown afternoon would be best highlighted on a 55-yard screen pass where he broke a tackle and galloped into the endzone in the third quarter that would give the Chargers what seemed like at that time…an insurmountable 24-9 lead.
“I feel like I made most of my plays when they came. The plays came to me and I made the ones I was supposed to.”
This being the NFL, Ekeler’s sparkling performance was almost not enough to hold off the persistence of the Colts. No lead is really safe until the clock hits zero. The Colts found themselves right back in the game following Ekeler’s sensational catch-and-run score.
Just when it appeared that Los Angeles could afford to take their foot off the gas pedal, Indianapolis running back Marlon Mack, who rushed for 174 yards, made it a ballgame again on the Colts’ next offensive series when he ran 63 yards through the Chargers defense for a touchdown.
The Colts got in position to knot the score at 24-24, culminating a long drive following an interception by Malik Hooker who picked off Rivers in the endzone.
“That was tough. Tough loss,” said Indianapolis coach Frank Reich. “When you go on the road against a team that was 12-4 last year — a very good football team with an elite quarterback — they made the plays that they needed to make to win. I give them credit. They’re a very well-coached team. [Chargers Head Coach] Anthony Lynn, I think the world of him, and I think that’s a good football team and they played well. They deserve the win. It’s hard to say, but they deserve the win.”