Interceptions lift Chargers past Colts, 36-14
INDIANAPOLIS - The more the San Diego Chargers feed Mike Tolbert the ball, the better the results are. The bruising back powered for 103 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries to help the Chargers beat Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts 36-14 on Sunday night. Tolbert has rushed for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. The third-year player gained 111 yards on 25 carries last Monday night in a 36-14 win over Denver. "It's a matter of getting the opportunities, and being in games when you can be committed to it, depending on how the game's going," San Diego coach Norv Turner said. "He's a load. He's a 250-pound guy that finds a crease, plays very physical, and he's a very good athlete."Philip Rivers passed for a season-low 185 yards and went without a touchdown for the first time this season. The smile etched on his face when he talked about Tolbert showed that he didn't mind. Tolbert left the game briefly in the first half with a hand injury, but returned and was too much for the Colts to handle. "He's a tough, tough guy that was banged up some today and kept running hard," Rivers said. "When you run with the style he runs, there's never a play that doesn't end with a hard collision." Now, the Chargers have won four straight and are a game behind Kansas City in the AFC West after starting 2-5. In the three games in which Tolbert has rushed for at least 100 yards, the Chargers (6-5) are 3-0 and have outscored their opponents 112-38. He wants to continue to provide a different threat for the team. "It's always a good fit for when you have the best quarterback in the league, in my opinion," he said. "And then, when you can balance it out with a good running game, you never know what's going to hit you as a defense." While Rivers had an uneventful night, counterpart Manning had one of his most forgettable efforts. He passed for 285 yards and two touchdowns, but two of his four interceptions were returned for touchdowns. For the first time in Manning's 13 NFL seasons, he has thrown a combined seven interceptions in back-to-back weeks. The injury-ravaged Colts (6-5) will win fewer than 12 games for the first time in eight years. The Colts were missing receiver Austin Collie and running back Joseph Addai against San Diego, but Manning said there is no time for excuses. "It would be nice to get some guys back, but if we don't, the guys that are in there, starting with myself, will have to play better on offense." The Colts took the game's opening possession 78 yards for a score. Manning connected with Jacob Tamme for a 4-yard touchdown pass to give the Colts a 7-0 lead. San Diego tried to answer, but Rivers overthrew Malcom Floyd in the end zone on a third-and-2 at the Indianapolis 10, and the Chargers settled for a 28-yard field goal by Kaeding to cut the Colts' lead to 7-3 with 3:22 remaining in the quarter. On Indy's next possession, Manning looked for Reggie Wayne, but instead found Kevin Burnett. The San Diego linebacker returned the interception 29 yards for a touchdown to give the Chargers a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter. Manning threw another interception early in the second quarter, this time to linebacker Stephen Cooper. The Chargers turned it into a 33-yard field goal by Kaeding to expand the lead to 13-7. Kaeding added a 50-yarder with 4:39 left in the half to make it 16-7. The Colts got back into the game with their two-minute offense. Manning threw a 35-yard completion to Tamme and a 30-yarder to Pierre Garcon that took Indianapolis to the San Diego 5-yard line. Two plays later, Manning connected with Blair White for a 6-yard touchdown pass that cut San Diego's lead to 16-14 with 22 seconds left in the half. San Diego reached the Indianapolis 1-yard line on its first drive of the second half, but Eric Foster sacked Rivers on third-and-goal. Nate Kaeding made his fourth field goal, a 30-yarder, to increase San Diego's lead to 19-14. Eric Weddle returned Manning's third interception 41 yards for a touchdown to push San Diego's lead to 26-14 with 8:21 left in the third quarter. The crowd booed because Weddle grabbed Reggie Wayne and pulled him to the ground before making the play. Tolbert scored after that, and Kaeding tacked on a fifth field goal to close the scoring. Antoine Cason intercepted Manning in the final minute. Tolbert said he appreciates the opportunity to play. He split time with Ryan Mathews early in the season, but Mathews has been out with a high ankle sprain, and Tolbert has taken advantage. "The coaches and players have the utmost confidence in me, and I have the utmost confidence in myself, too," he said. "To help my team in any way I can is a special feeling." Notes: San Diego WR Vincent Jackson's season debut was a short one. He strained a calf muscle on the Chargers' opening series and did not return. Turner said he did not expect Jackson to miss a lot of time. ... Tolbert also left during the first half with what appeared to be a left hand injury. ... The banged-up Colts took a couple of more hits Sunday. Wayne was shaken up with 2:45 left, and starting cornerback Kelvin Hayden also was hurt in the closing minutes. Both players left walked off the field without help. ... It was Indy's most lopsided home loss since a 31-3 rout by Seattle on Sept. 14, 1997. Indy had won 19 of its last 20 home games, the only loss coming after the Colts pulled their starters against the New York Jets last December.