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Chargers barge into NFL playoffs

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — The Los Angeles Chargers are headed back to the National Football League playoffs for the first time since 2018 after a 20-3 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

The Chargers clinched an AFC wild card berth, aided by defeats for the New York Jets, New England Patriots and Las Vegas Raiders earlier in the week.

It will be their first post-season appearance under head coach Brandon Staley and with star quarterback Justin Herbert, who was drafted sixth overall in 2020.

“It means a lot for our team,” Herbert said of a Chargers side that lost a string of key contributors to injury this season.

“We’ve been through so much this year and for the guys to battle and keep fighting the way they have, it’s been great to see,” he added in a post-game interview with ESPN.

Herbert completed 25 of 31 passes for 235 yards, with one interception.

Austin Ekeler ran for two touchdowns and Cameron Dicker kicked two field goals for the Chargers, with Herbert admitting that offensively there is “a lot of room for improvement.

“We can get better,” he said.

“Just left a lot out there. But I thought the story of the day was the defense. They’ve done such a great job battling all year and they made plays when they needed to most.”

While the Chargers may have been less than electrifying offensively, the Colts were worse.

Nine days after their historic collapse against the Minnesota Vikings, the Colts gained just 173 yards, their only points coming from a field goal by Chase McLaughlin.

Quarterback Nick Foles, standing in for Matt Ryan, connected on 17 of 29 passes for 143 yards with three interceptions. He was sacked seven times.

With games against the Los Angeles Rams and Denver Broncos remaining in the regular season, the Chargers improved to 9-6.

They welcomed safety Derwin James back to their starting lineup after a two-game injury absence, but James was ejected in the first half for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Colts receiver Ashton Dullin.

Both were examined for head injuries, Dullin departing the contest with a concussion.

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