By BERNIE WILSON
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SAN DIEGO —
Andrew Luck won’t need permission to stay up for the second half of “Monday Night Football.”
Luck will make his Monday night debut when he and the AFC South-leading Indianapolis Colts visit Philip Rivers and the enigmatic San Diego Chargers. It’ll be a big deal for Luck, especially if the Colts (4-1) beat the Chargers (2-3).
Luck spent part of his childhood in Europe, where his father, Oliver, worked for the WLAF and NFL Europe. It wasn’t until his family moved back to the United States that he figured out what Monday night games were all about, even if he had to beg his parents to let him stay up to watch the second half.
“Certain games I was allowed to stay up for a little bit, if I got my sister to join in on the group effort to convince my parents to let us,” he said.
Now Luck has a chance to star in a Monday night game.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” the second-year quarterback out of Stanford said. “Obviously, ‘Monday Night Football’ has a ring to it. A feel about it. I remember as a kid, always wanting to stay up to watch the second half and being told I had to go to bed.
“So I hope my mom lets my brother stay up and watch the second half. It’ll be exciting.”
The Chargers, meanwhile, will try to avoid their second straight prime-time stinker. They’re coming off a dreadful 27-17 loss at Oakland in which they committed five turnovers.
This one might be embarrassing for the Chargers even before kickoff. As of Thursday afternoon, it was looking likely that the game would be blacked out on local TV because more than 9,000 tickets remained unsold.
Here are five things to watch when Indianapolis plays San Diego:
TO EACH, A PAGANO: Colts coach Chuck Pagano is the older brother of Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano. Chuck Pagano overcame leukemia that kept him off the sideline for 12 weeks in 2012, his first season as Colts coach. The Paganos grew up in Boulder, Colo., where they played for their father, Sam, at Fairview High.
A LOT OF LUCK: Although the Colts have become more of a power running team since adding Trent Richardson in a trade with Cleveland, they still rely on Luck’s arm. Last Sunday, Luck finished 16 of 29 for 229 yards with two touchdowns and picked up his ninth fourth-quarter comeback win in 21 career games in helping the Colts beat the Seahawks 34-28. “He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” said Chargers rookie coach Mike McCoy, who was a quarterback in college. “His fundamentals are some of the best in the league. Guys like him don’t come around very often. He’s a great quarterback.”
MEANDERING RIVERS: Rivers has two straight 400-yard passing games and three in four games. But Rivers looked completely different in throwing for 401 yards and three touchdowns in beating the Dallas Cowboys than he did in throwing for 411 yards and two TDs in losing to the Raiders. Rivers was intercepted off three times by the Raiders, including a big overthrow of Eddie Royal that ended San Diego’s first possession, and twice in the final two minutes of a loss that dropped the Chargers into a share of the AFC basement with Oakland. Rivers better be careful, because the Colts have picked off seven passes in five games. Rivers could become the first QB in NFL history to have three straight 400-yard passing games. “I’d take 150 yards and a win before I took that stat,” he said.
MATHIS, YES; FREENEY, NO: Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney brought home the bacon for Indianapolis’ defense for a decade, sharing a Super Bowl win, going to four Pro Bowls together and combining for almost 200 sacks as one of the NFL’s most-feared pass-rushing tandems. The best friends were split up in the offseason when the Colts let Freeney go. This was to have been their first game as rivals, but Freeney was placed on injured reserve after sustaining a season-ending quad injury against Dallas two weeks ago.
Mathis motors on, leading the NFL with 9 1/2 sacks. By comparison, the Chargers have a total of 13 sacks. Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson, who leads San Diego with four sacks, has a hamstring injury and might miss Monday night’s game.
TAKEAWAYS-TURNOVERS: The Colts are tied for fourth in the NFL with a plus-6 turnover differential, while the Chargers are tied for 28th at minus-8. “That’s the biggest tell-all other than the score, turnover margin,” Chuck Pagano said. “And we’re doing good there. Hopefully we stay that way.”
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