This was one of the most horrible games last season (out of many) that had me wondering why our Chargers kept losing games they had every reason to win. For the third time that season, the offense failed to score a touchdown and the defense did everything they could to give them a chance only to lose in the end. Let's break it down...
The Bengals got the ball first and, after converting their first two third downs, failed on their third, but went for it on 4th and 9. You listening, Mike McCoy? They went for it on 4th and 9. From the 35, or, "no man's land". The pass was incomplete, but oh look! A defensive penalty on Shareece Wright gave them a free first down. Jermaine Gresham scored me 7.9 fantasy points a couple plays later to give the Bengals a 7-0 lead after a 7 minute, 91 yard drive.
The Chargers responded with a #chargersfootball classic, a near 8 minute field goal drive that stalled in the redzone thanks to a Philip Rivers sack/fumble that was recovered by Antonio Gates. The defense knew where this game was going so they immediately decided to do something on Cincy's next series. Demorrio Williams made a great read and intercepted Andy Dalton's pass and returned it 31 yards for the touchdown to give the Chargers the 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Cincy responded with a field goal to tie it up on a drive that featured a big 41 yard run by the 'law firm' Benjarvus Green-Ellis after the defense held the Bengals at the one yard line. After reaching midfield on their next series, a holding penalty on Jeromey Clary put the Bolts in a 1st and 20 they couldn't recover from and punted 3 plays later. The Bengals also punted. After a big play got the Chargers in business, they reached the one yard line where, as
is was the customary #chargersfootball strategy, they kicked a field goal for a 13-10 lead at halftime.
The second half is where things got really, really aggravating. The Chargers started with a 3-and-out drive, and the defense did not like that. Not. One. Bit. So then this happened:
Corey Lynch intercepts a pass, Chargers take the field, glorified 3-and-out. Bengals fumble ball away, Chargers take the field. They then go from a 2nd and 8 at the Cincy 23 to a 4th and 21 at the 36. Field Goal hits the upright, no good. Bengals and Chargers swap punts on 3-and-out drives. Twice. At this point, defense can't hold up anymore and the Bengals score in the middle of the 4th quarter on an Andy Dalton run to make the score 17-13.
Crunch time. Rivers and co hit the field and, after an incompletion, takes a sack. And fumbles. On their own 15 yard line. Bengals kick a field goal 3 plays later to make it 20-13. With about two and a half minutes and two timeouts left, the Chargers have a chance to tie. Being the 2012 Chargers, they don't. After reaching the Cincy 17 yard line, Rivers throws three straight incompletions before finally changing it up a bit on 4th down and throwing an interception to Reggie Nelson in the endzone. Cincinnati wins.
Do you see why this game was so maddening? The defense gets three turnovers, forces a bunch of 3-and-outs, and even scores points. And the Chargers lose. This year, the Bengals are a bit more inconsistent, and the Chargers have an offense that can, at least in theory (ahem, Miami/Tennessee) score points. However, as much as Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason struggled, this year's CB group is unbelievably and spectacularly worse. Having no pass rush doesn't help much, but still. The Bengals don't have Geno Atkins, but their defense as a whole is still very good. If Andy Dalton has clean pockets to throw from, I fully expect the Bengals to win this one 27-20. But I'm in the mood for something better. Somehow, the defense gets a key turnover and the offense actually puts up points this time and I predict a Chargers victory.