I said all week long that, to win this very important game, the San Diego Chargers would need to first win the turnover battle against the Cincinnati Bengals. Unfortunately, they did not do that, turning the ball over 3 times while forcing the Bengals into just 2 turnovers.
This game was the clearest example of the 2013 Chargers not being a playoff team. While they managed to beat the Kansas City Chiefs last week in an offensive shoutout among division rivals, the Bengals kept things from getting out of hand and simply let their talent win out over the course of the game.
The Chargers had some very questionable game management from Head Coach Mike McCoy, including a few punts from within the Bengals 40 yard line and a weird accepted penalty in the 4th quarter that made it 1st & 15 instead of 2nd & 11.
More than anything, though, this game was lost with mistakes. Antonio Gates will only get credited for one fumble, but he had another ball ripped out of his hands and deserves plenty of scorn for having one of the worst games of his career when the team needed him most. The two turnovers he caused, each deep inside Bengal's territory, are the first things to point to when looking at the 10 points scored by the Chargers offense today. Keenan Allen's fumble didn't help matters either. With the worst defense in the league, 10 points from the offense is never going to result in a win.
We'll have a full breakdown of the game tomorrow, and we'll probably start talking about NFL Draft positioning soon, but for now we can all take a deep breath and start considering what the 2014 Chargers might look like. There is plenty of young talent on the offensive side of the ball, and the defense should be a lot better after a few injured players get healthy and Tom Telesco goes to work on the San Diego secondary.
Until then, we're just playing out the games and maybe hoping for a miracle. Winning the remaining games against the Broncos, Raiders and Chiefs would be fun, even if they only work to hurt the future of the franchise.