Most NFL offenses seek out the big play. The San Diego Chargers specialize in the long, slow drive. That approach might not fill up the highlight reel, but Philip Rivers continues to lead one of the most effective offenses in the NFL.
On Monday night, the Indianapolis Colts suffered a death by a thousand cuts (or quick Rivers passes). The Chargers are back to .500 after a no-frills 19-9 victory because they play to their strengths.
The ball comes out of Rivers' hand quickly. Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead are a surprisingly effective 1-2 punch in the backfield. Rookie wideout Keenan Allen had more than 100 yards again Monday night and is developing into a consistent threat. San Diego eats up time on offense, which keeps the team's shaky defense off the field.
Rivers played a game of keep-away in prime time. The Chargers had four consecutive drives of 11 or more plays. Those four drives took up more than 29 minutes of game time. San Diego held the ball for more than 38 minutes of action, effectively taking Colts quarterback Andrew Luck out of the game.
The Colts want to be a power football team despite the presence of one of the most dynamic passers in the league. It backfired Monday night, especially when coach Chuck Pagano decided to punt the ball on fourth-and-2 with under four minutes left. The Colts were down two scores by the time they got the ball back.
San Diego definitely had some good fortune on the night; Colts receivers dropped at least five passes. But that shouldn't take away from a mistake-free game from the Chargers' offense. San Diego's beleaguered defensive unit was effective getting off the field with creative third-down blitzes.
This is a feistier Chargers team than in recent years. The defense has to prove it can compete, but the offense is brutally efficient and among the most consistent groups in the league.
"I thought it was the turning point for our season," Rivers told ESPN after the game. "That doesn't mean that it's gonna take care of itself, but 2-4 would've been quite a bind to be in. We gotta go get Jacksonville next week before the bye, find ourselves at 4-3 and then see what happens."
Like Rivers' throwing motion, the Chargers' offense might not be pretty, but it's satisfyingly deliberate.