Chargers conquer Colts
San Diego continue their quest for the Super Bowl with a 23-17 victory over Indianapolis.
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2009 16:40 GMT

Darren Sproles seals his side's victory [GALLO/GETTY]
The San Diego Chargers scored a heart-pounding 23-17 overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts in their AFC wildcard clash.

Darren Sproles took a hand-off from quarterback Philip Rivers and scampered 22 yards for the winning touchdown with 6:20 elapsed in overtime.

The Chargers' 75-yard drive was the only possession of overtime.

"I just saw the green grass outside and I just went for the score," Sproles said after the game in which he carried 23 times for 105 yards.

Sproles became the Chargers' main running back when LaDainian Tomlinson left the game with a groin injury after scoring a touchdown early in the second quarter.

During the 16-game regular season, Sproles averaged less that four carries from scrimmage per game largely filling in for Tomlinson.

"I just needed a chance," Sproles added. "I knew I could do it."

The diminutive Sproles, who is just 1.65 metres tall and weighs 82 kgs, also had 178 yards on four kickoff and three punt returns.

He had five pass receptions for 45 yards and scored a touchdown on a nine-yard run just before halftime that gave the Chargers a 14-10 lead.

It was his 26-yard punt return with two minutes remaining in regulation and the Chargers trailing, 17-14, that gave San Diego outstanding field position on the Colts 38 yard line.

Key plays

Two key passes from Rivers to All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates led to a game tying field goal by Nate Kaeding with only 31 seconds left.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, recently named the NFL's MVP, caught the Chargers off guard after an incomplete pass midway through the third period.

Lining up without going to a huddle first, Manning called a quick count and receiver Reggie Wayne was wide open for a lob.

Wayne ran uncontested into the end zone for a 72-yard score and a 17-14 lead.

Both teams entered the season as likely contenders for the Super bowl but had to surge late in the season after poor starts.

Indianapolis fell to 3-4 before winning nine straight to come to Saturday's game 12-4.

San Diego became the only NFL team to win a division after starting the season 4-8.

They were 8-8 before the playoff game.

Chargers coach Norv Turner said: "This was a hard game. It ranks up there with as good a win as we've had."

Colts coach Tony Dungy, who led the Colts to the Super Bowl championship just two seasons ago, may have coached his last game.

Asked if the overtime defeat was his last on the sidelines of the NFL, Dungy said, "I don't know. I'll let you know in a week."

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