The game started about as well as it possibly could have with Philip Rivers marching the Chargers offense down the field for a touchdown. Austin Ekeler, in particular, looked unstoppable, and Keenan Allen finished the drive off by getting wide open for a score.
The Chargers offense picked right back up where they left off with Ekeler, Allen, and now Justin Jackson all picking up chunk yardage en route to a powerful touchdown run by Ekeler.
The teams traded punts, and then the Bengals, starting near midfield, marched 50 yards for what initially looked like a touchdown run by Driskel. Luckily, the new rule about quarterbacks “giving themselves up” caused him to be ruled down inches short of the goal line. Then, after a false start, the Bengals elected to try a field goal which was good.
Once again, the offenses stalled with the two teams combining for three consecutive three-and-outs. Unfortunately, the Chargers’ second failed drive gave the Bengals the ball at the Chargers’ 35 and the defense was unable to survive the hole the offense left them in as John Ross ended up scoring an easy 6-yard touchdown. The Bengals attempted to go for 2, but Derwin James was having none of that as he made a strong open field tackle to prevent it.
Desmond King sparked the offense with a quality kick off return to the Chargers’ 32-yard line. A pair of 11-yard passes to Travis Benjamin and Allen had the offense in position to attempt a Hail Mary, but the Bengals jumped offside. That extra 5 yards allowed Anthony Lynn to consider a field goal attempt. Michael Badgley rewarded him with a 59 yard field goal (the longest in franchise history).
The Bengals appeared ready to be held to a three-and-out on their opening drive of the second half, but Marvin Lewis surprised everyone by going for it on 4th down in his own territory. The Chargers defense stepped up big time with a tackle for loss by Michael Davis and Jahleel Addae.
The offense nearly stalled out immediately, but Ekeler go the call on 4th and short and converted. Eventually, the vanilla offense of the Chargers was held to a field goal attempt by Badgley who converted from 31 yards out to stretch the lead to 8.
A big 24-yard reception by C.J. Uzomah in front of Addae got the Bengals across midfield, but the defense held strong and force a 4th & 7 that the offense stayed on the field for. After a false start, though, Lewis elected to punt the ball away.
The Chargers took over after the punt on their own 4 and were only able to gain 19 yards and burn 3 minutes of clock before another bad Donnie Jones punt returned the ball to Cincinnati.
From their own 39-yard line, the Bengals maneuvered into field goal range with a 13-yard reception by Tyler Boyd and a 14-yard from Core. Adrian Phillips made a key pass breakup to force a 4th down and Cincy elected to try a field goal. Bullock cut the lead to 5.
Allen got things going the right way early on the next drive catching a long pass by Rivers for a 37-yard gain. Ekeler picked up 5 yards on 1st down, but was mobbed 5 yards behind the line on 2nd down. Mike Williams kept the drive alive, though, with a great catch over the middle for 17 yards. A rare Allen run was stuffed for no gain followed by Tyrell Williams not trying to get up field on 2nd down which left the offense needing 3 yards on 3rd down. A blatant pass interference on 3rd down that went uncalled allowed the Bengals to get off the field as the defender tackled Allen before the ball arrived. Badgley kicked a field goal to stretch the lead back to 8.
Down by 8 points, Jeff Driskel led the Bengals on an 11-play, 69-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a 1-yard Joe Mixon touchdown after an Addae penalty gave them 1st & goal instead of 4th & goal from the 1. A Darius Philon sack on the ensuing 2-point attempt, however, kept the Chargers ahead by 2 points, and set up an onside attempt that was unsuccessful, but also resulted in an injury to Austin Ekeler.
Following the recovery, the Chargers offense was just running Justin Jackson into the line to force the Bengals to burn their final time outs. On 3rd & 5, they elected to let Rivers run a read option. It worked about as well as you might expect. Badgley then kicked another field goal to make the score 26-21.
The Chargers kicked the ball back to the Bengals with 49 seconds on the clock. The Bengals with no time outs, had 43 seconds to go 77 yards for a score. An Uchenna Nwosu sack effectively ended the game.