Chargers' Rivers, Tomlinson hurt against Colts; Gates plays

Updated: January 14, 2008, 11:40 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

INDIANAPOLIS -- Injuries took a toll on both teams in Sunday's AFC divisional playoff game, but the Chargers did a better job of persevering.

San Diego lost LaDainian Tomlinson for much of the day with a bruised left knee. The Chargers also watched Philip Rivers head to the locker room after hurting his right knee on a short pass that Darren Sproles turned into a 56-yard touchdown on the last play of the third quarter.

Rivers
Rivers
LaDainian Tomlinson

Tomlinson

With Michael Turner stepping up at halfback and quarterback Billy Volek keeping the Chargers offense on pace, San Diego upset Indianapolis 28-24 and advanced to the AFC Championship Game to face the New England Patriots next weekend.

"Nobody ever flinched," Rivers said.

"No one seemed rattled," said Tomlinson, the two-time NFL rushing champion who had only 28 yards on seven carries. "Guys just kept playing. It was really amazing to watch, to be honest with you."

The Colts were also banged up. Indianapolis lost safety Bob Sanders, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, briefly with a shoulder injury, while running back Joseph Addai sat out a portion of the second half after being shaken up on a 10-yard run.

Both Rivers and Tomlinson said they hoped to be ready for the Patriots, and coach Norv Turner said they are "questionable."

Turner said that Rivers and Tomlinson are scheduled to undergo MRI exams on Monday.

"That's the true measure of a team," Tomlinson said. "Guys stepped up and got it done."

Rivers jumped to throw the ball to Sproles and landed awkwardly. He was helped onto a training table on the sideline before going to the locker room for evaluation. By the time he jogged back out of the tunnel onto the Chargers sideline, he already had been replaced by Volek.

The subs led the Chargers 78 yards on eight plays, with Volek sneaking in from the 1 with 4:50 remaining for the lead. He finished 3-of-4 for 48 yards and, most importantly, didn't have an interception.

"They know what I can do. Just to know that those guys have faith in me gives me even more confidence," Volek said.

Showing off his bruising running style, Turner -- who was signed for $2.35 million in the offseason as insurance for a Tomlinson injury -- carried the ball 17 times for 71 yards.

"It paid off today. He cashed it in today," said Turner of general manager A.J. Smith's decision to keep him.

Turner can leave as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

Tomlinson was injured during a second-quarter run and remained on the sideline through the end of the third quarter, even though the Chargers said his return was probable. Sanders injured his shoulder tackling Turner with 6:14 remaining in the third, but returned the next time the Colts defense took the field.

Tomlinson limped off after being tackled on an 8-yard run that helped set up a second-quarter touchdown. The NFL rushing champion fumbled on the play, but San Diego recovered and Rivers threw a 14-yard TD pass to Vincent Jackson on the next play.

Tomlinson went to the sideline and was examined. After testing his leg by jogging in front of the bench, the Chargers star remained on the sideline riding a stationary bike when San Diego's offense went onto the field for its next possession.

Antonio Gates

Gates

One of the Chargers' big offensive weapons was already limited. Tight end Antonio Gates, whose status was uncertain because of a dislocated big left toe, played sparingly in the first half. His first reception, a 23-yard catch, came on the same drive Tomlinson was hurt.

Gates was injured during the first half of San Diego's 17-6 wild-card victory over the Tennessee Titans. He didn't practice during the week, but the Chargers decided against declaring him inactive against Colts.

The Pro Bowl tight end limped off the field after San Diego's third offensive play and was in and out of the lineup the remainder of the half. But unlike Tomlinson, he was on the field for the start of the third quarter for an 83-yard TD drive that put the Chargers up 14-10.

Gates' status for next week is also uncertain. Gates was in a walking boot after the game on Sunday.

Chargers defensive end Luis Castillo also was taken to the locker room for attention after being blocked in the ribs on a first-quarter passing play. He returned after only missing a few plays.

"Nobody really gave us a shot," Rivers said. "We were seeing preview shows of you know, 'Can't wait for Indy-New England.' We just had us in this locker room, kind of like we just had us when it was 1-3. Nobody would say we'd be playing in the AFC championship in New England when we were 1-3. But we believed it and we kept playing."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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