It was an ugly game. If you want to see fumbles, flimsy passes, and miscommunication, you could go down to your local pee wee football game and have an entertaining afternoon. Or, you could spend four hours and watch the Cincinnati Bengals play the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. It’s your call, but watching kids is adorable, while watching this game creates ulcers.
In a game that had more turnovers than quarters played, it was an ugly 17-10 Bengals’ win in San Diego.The only good news from this game is that the Bengals are 8-4 with three wins in as many trips to the west coast. If anything, unless Cincinnati goes without a win against their remaining opponents that hold an 22-25 record – some of which must go undefeated – a third-consecutive playoff appearance is all but certain.
There might not be a quarterback as perplexing as Andy Dalton; hence the critic’s being hard on his ability to lead the Bengals.
After today, Dalton is the second quarterback in NFL history to achieve 3,000 passing yards in his first three seasons. The only other player to do so is Peyton Manning. When the only other player mentioned in the same breath as you is Peyton Manning, usually no one is going to question your ability.
But here he is, about to take the Bengals to their third consecutive playoff appearance for the first time in franchise history, and he goes 14 of 23 for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Meanwhile, if you caught the Broncos’ game, Manning went 22 of 35 for 403 yards with five touchdowns against two interceptions.
Its apples and oranges when comparing a veteran like Manning to Dalton, but elite company deserves elite analysis. Dalton clearly isn’t Manning.
In the first half of Sunday’s game against the Chargers, Dalton looked like the weak-arm quarterback that all the critics made him out to be.
With a 22.1 quarterback rating and a horrible, absolutely horrible interception in the first quarter, the bad Andy seemed to be in full effect.
Luckily for Dalton, San Diego’s Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates wasn’t living up to the accolades by giving up a forced fumble on the Chargers opening drive at Cincinnati’s 18-yard line. Bengals’ safety Reggie Nelson was able to rip the ball away from Gates with George Iloka recovering the loose ball.
Later in the first quarter, the Bengals’ running game would flex its muscles for what seems like the first time all season with Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis running for 47 yards on seven carries. BenJarvus Green-Ellis would finish off the drive with a four-yard touchdown run up the middle for a Bengals’ 7-0 lead.
The Chargers would follow the Bengals with a 78-yard touchdown drive of their own that ended in a 30-yard Philip Rivers’ pass to Ladarius Green over the middle to tie the game.
It was all defense the rest of the half. Andy Dalton would go 2 of 5 for 21 yards with and interception in the second quarter before halftime. The Bengals’ defense was able to hold Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers to 12 of 18 passing, for 145 yards and one touchdown pass in the first half.
The Bengals would go on to dominate the second half thanks to an Antonio Gates fumble during San Diego’s opening drive in the second half while at Cincinnati’s 25-yard line. River’s hit Gates in the middle of the field on third-and-long, Bengal’s second-year cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick went to tackle Gates and was able to wrestle the ball away before hitting the ground. The official call on the field was an intercepted pass, but it should have been ruled a second fumble on Gates.
Once the Bengals took over at their own 25, Dalton would start his mid-game comeback like he did against the Browns before the Bye Week. Dalton would go 3 for 3 for 41 yards and a touchdown pass to a wide open A.J Green to give the Bengals a 14-7 lead. During the drive, Giovanni Bernard ran for 32 yards on four carries with a 19-yard scramble up the middle to the Chargers’ 19-yard line.
After a Chargers’ punt on the ensuing drive, Bengals’ wide receiver Andrew Hawkins would help set up a Mike Nugent 46-yard field goal after a 50-yard catch-and-run to the Chargers’ 32-yard line to put Cincinnati up 17-7.
Hawkins had missed most of the season with a knee injury before being activated for the Bengals’ overtime loss to the Dolphins on Oct. 31. He finished the game with 3 catches for 65 yards.
Things got sloppy after that.
After a short run following a holding penalty that put San Diego at their own 25-yard line, Philip Rivers hit Keenan Allen for a 14-yard gain before George Iloka knocked the ball loose and Bengals’ linebacker Vincent Rey recovered. The officials ruled the receiver down by contact, but after review, it was overruled and the Bengals took over at the Chargers’ 24-yard line.
It was of little consequence when only three plays later, Chargers’ safety Eric Weedle ran a BenJarvus Green-Ellis fumble to the Chargers’ 43-yard line.
The Chargers would finish the drive with a Nick Novak 48-yard field goal to put San Diego within striking distance at 17-10 and just under five minutes to play.