The Chargers found a way to stave off the feisty Cincinnati Bengals for a 26-21 victory on Sunday evening, giving them their 10th win of the season and marking the first time the team has won double-digit games since the 2009 season.
If you were able to watch the game from start to finish, you may have come away from the contest feeling like it was “too close for comfort” or that it just didn’t feel like the team played anywhere near the fan base’s expectations.
And, to be honest, you’re rightfully justified in feeling this way.
The Bengals were last in the league in terms of points and total yards allowed per game. Matching those facts with the Chargers explosive offense seemed like a match made in heaven for the Bolts who were coming off a 30-point performance against the Steelers’ revitalized defense.
Somehow though, the Chargers only managed a pair of touchdowns and four field goals by Michael Badgley, one of them being a franchise-record 59-yarder. This game also marked the first time during the 2018 season that Philip Rivers failed to toss multiple touchdowns in a game as he was held to just 220 yards and a single score. The other touchdown was a 5-yard scamper by Austin Ekeler who enjoyed a nice bounce-back performance after his dismal outing the previous Sunday against Pittsburgh.
At the end of the day, most hoped that the game against the Bengals would be fairly similar to the Cardinals game where the team racked up 45 points before they headed into a tough situation the following week at Heinz Field. Yeah the Chargers got the victory, I just hope the team purposely breezed this last game in hopes of being able to rev things ups against the Chiefs in what could be a game that decides the final playoff positioning for a multitude of teams.
Without dwelling on the underwhelming performance longer than necessary, here are the players who still found a way to stand out and those who really played down to the level of competition.
DE Joey Bosa
Even after all that time on the sideline, the big bear hasn’t seemed to miss a step since his return four weeks ago. In fact, he leads the team in sacks since his return as he’s amassed four in the last three games, the last two coming up when the team needed a crucial stop on defense.
Besides his ability to get after quarterbacks, Bosa has been just as influential in stopping the run, as well. In their last three games, Bosa has 17 total tackles which is tied for second on the team in that span along with safeties Derwin James and Adrian Phillips.
His 84.6 grade from this past Sunday paced the team as he was the only member of the Chargers to receive a grade above 80.0. Defensive teammate Desmong King was close with a 79.5 but, for the most part, it was a less than stellar performance across the board for the Bolts.
It was a wild day in the #NFL, but the #Chargers still managed to take down the #Bengals. Top 5 LAC grades:— PFF LA Chargers (@PFF_Chargers) December 10, 2018
1. Joey Bosa - 84.6
2. Desmond King II - 79.5
3. Philip Rivers - 78.8
4. Keenan Allen - 74.1
5. Darius Philon - 73.3
WR Keenan Allen
The Slayer’s performance against the Bengals was really just another day at the office as the former Cal-product hauled in his fifth touchdown in as many games to go along with 78 yards receiving five catches. His 74.1 game grade against the Bengals was obviously not his best but it also didn’t do him any harm as Allen still remains the third highest-graded receiver in the league with an elite 90.4 season grade. He joins Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Adam Thielen, Tyreek Hill, and Odell Beckham Jr. as the only receivers currently with a grade above 90.0 on the year.
The best wide receivers in the NFL in 2018. pic.twitter.com/PrvtFn3h50— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) December 11, 2018
Over his last five weeks, Allen has maintained an extremely healthy pace with a collective 41 catches for 444 yards and the aforementioned five touchdowns. At 8.2 catches per game, Allen is looking like his 2017 version once again and it couldn’t come at a better time than right now, especially with the team needing to play its best ball during the finals three weeks of the regular season.
K Michael Badgley (SURPRISE! THREE PLAYERS THAT SURGED!)
It obviously would be completely wrong of me to not include the “Money Badger” on this list after he put together a perfect day against the Bengals. His spotless stat sheet also happened to include a franchise-record 59-yard field goal that may have actually been good from several more yards back.
The added cherry on top of his performance is that he unsurprisingly had one of the highest game grades for a Chargers kicker in recent memory. According to the guys over at Pro Football Focus, Badgley secured the best game grade since the team was still in San Diego and had Josh Lambo back there using his boot.
Michael Badgley earned an 82.6 grade for his efforts on Sunday which is the highest game grade for a #Chargers kicker since Week 7 of 2016 (Josh Lambo).— PFF LA Chargers (@PFF_Chargers) December 11, 2018
RB Justin Jackson
Well, for those of you who expected another stellar outing for Jackson this week, it just wasn’t meant to be as he produced just 12 rushing yards from his seven carries on the night. The rookie found nowhere to run against underrated front seven of the Bengals as his longest run of the day went for just three yards.
He did, however, catch a pair of passes for 23 yards which helped moved the chains but the overall production was obviously less than desired. The good news for Jackson fans is that Thursday night is looking to be another potential breakout game for the former-Wildcat as he might be the team’s only option at the position, other than Detrez Newsome, after the team announced the availability of Gordon and Ekeler is still very much up in the air.
(SURPRISE! JUST ONE STATIC PLAYER THIS WEEK!)