Nothing drives a team's fans and coaches crazier than when a team turns the ball over. Sometimes it is due to poor play on the offense's part, and sometimes it is due to excellent defensive play.
Turnovers played a major role in last Sunday's Chargers game, with two of the Chargers turnovers coming deep in Bengals territory. Both of those turnovers led to the only two Bengals touchdowns as well.
Coughing It Up
1st Q, 9:49 left, 3rd and 10 from CIN 31
On the opening drive of the game, the Chargers were facing a 3rd and 10 in long field goal range. Antonio Gates runs a simple route 11 yards down the field and catches a perfect pass in a gap between four Bengals defenders. As Gates dives forward for a couple of extra yards, the ball comes loose and the Bengals recover after it is ruled a fumbled.
This was was close enough to warrant a review under the hood. Below is the screenshot from the broadcast at the moment of impact before Gates got his knee down.
Gates doesn't appear to be holding the ball that securely as he went down. As a result, the ball appears to have immediately started to move around after impact.
Who is to Blame? I'm going to go that this is on Gates on this one. It is close enough that it may not have actually been a fumble, but he wasn't holding the ball that securely, which gave the opening for the fumble in the first place.
3rd Q, 7:14 left, 3rd and 6 from CIN 30
The Chargers forced a punt from the Bengals to open the second half, and were again driving down the field and facing a 3rd down in long field goal range. Philip Rivers threw a pass to Gates 3 yards down the field. As Gates was bringing the pass in, Dre Kirkpatrick ripped the ball from his arms.
Who is to Blame? The first time I watched this play, I thought Rivers may have thrown it behind Gates based on the way he was turned backward, allowing Kirkpatrick to have the opportunity to take it. It turned out that wasn't the case, as Rivers delivered a pass right on the numbers of Gates jersey. Gates let a defender take the ball away from behind him, which is just unacceptable. Give credit to Kirkpatrick for going after the ball instead of just the tackle, but the blame for this is on Gates.
4th Q, 8:24 left, 2nd and 15 from SD 15
The Bengals had just kicked a field goal to go up 10 points, and the Chargers had half a quarter to try and make up round. Facing a 2nd and long, deep in their own territory, Rivers hit rookie Keenan Allen on the left. Allen darted up the field and dives for a first down. In midair, Bengals safety George Iloka hit Keenan Allen and knocks the ball out. The officials initially rule Allen down, but after review, it is clear that it was a fumble.
Who is to Blame? Based on the screenshot, it looks like Allen is holding the ball reasonably well. The combination of Iloka pulling on Allen's arm at the same time Adam Jones is hitting his hand and the ball from the other direction. This looks like bad luck on Allen's part, and a solid job by the defense going after the ball.
Taking it Away
2nd Q, 3:50 left, 1st and 10 from CIN35
Late in the second quarter with the game tied, the Bengals decided to go for the home run to A.J. Green deep. Chargers fans this season have been given a steady dose of wide open wide receivers deep this season, so seeing Andy Dalton wind up to throw it deep put a pit in the stomach of fans. Fortunately, there were three things in the Chargers favor on this particular play. First, Shareece Wright had halfway decent (though not great) coverage on Green. Green had gained half a step, but wasn't wide open by any stretch. Second, Eric Weddle was actually playing safety, so the play hadn't gotten behind him. Third, Andy Dalton was throwing the football. The result was a pass that went about 5 yards past Green and into the waiting arms of a well-positioned Weddle.
Who gets the credit? Andy Dalton certainly deserves a large bulk of the blame here for his terrible throw. Let's say the credit/blame gets divided up 50% to Dalton, 40% to Weddle, and 10% to John Pagano for actually letting Weddle play safety.
4th Q, 7:00 left, 3rd and 1 from SD 25
Keenan Allen had just fumbled the football deep in San Diego territory with the Chargers down 10 points in the fourth quarter. At the very least, the defense needed to make a stop to force a field goal. They did better than that here. BenJarvus Green-Ellis took the football up the middle for an apparent first down on 3rd and short. Marcus Gilchrist charged up to Green-Ellis and laid a big hit with his shoulder right on the ball. The ball immediately popped out and Eric Weddle recovered to get the Chargers back the ball.
Who gets the credit? No doubt about this one, this goes all to Gilchrist. BenJarvus Green-Ellis actually looked like he had the ball reasonably secure, but Gilchrist just delivered a huge hit right on the ball to knock it loose.
Two of the Chargers' three turnovers were due to mistakes on the part of Antonio Gates. The Keenan Allen fumble wasn't entirely his fault, as two defenders went after the arm securing the ball at the same time while he was falling.
On the other side of the ball, the Weddle interception was largely due to an error by Andy Dalton as much as it was due to good defensive positioning. The Gilchrist forced fumble was a fantastic force by the Chargers defender.