The Los Angeles Chargers for good reason were due for a trap game against the injured plagued Cincinnati Bengals. After an intense come-from-behind road victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday and an upcoming AFC West showdown with Kansas City, a slip-up seemed to be entirely possible.
However, Los Angeles put all the noise aside on Sunday, defeating the Bengals 26-21 at ROKiT Field at StubHub Center. With the win, the Chargers improved their record to 10-3, leading up to Thursday night’s match against the 11-2 Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium for the division lead.
“It was a tough win. Guys showed grit. They showed good mental toughness preparing for this game,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “Everyone wanted us to talk about Pittsburgh, and then if it wasn’t Pittsburgh than Kansas City — this team was dangerous, and we got out of here with a win today.”
Chargers signal caller Philip Rivers was 19 of 29 for 220 yards and a touchdown, while Austin Ekeler rushed for a 5-yard score, totaling 66 yards on 15 carries with Melvin Gordon missing his second straight game due to a knee injury.
Both scores came on their first two drives of the game, as the rest of the Chargers points were led by the foot of Michael Badgley, converting four field goals on the day.
“We started off good. We talked about coming out and getting off to a fast start,” said Rivers. “Not letting the big win from last week hang around. I thought we did a good job of that.”
Rivers completed his 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Keenan Allen, marking his 26th consecutive game with a touchdown pass. The play put Allen over 1,000 yards on the season, being the ﬁrst back-to-back 1,000-yard season by a Charger since 2008-09 receiver Vincent Jackson.
“It lets me know I’m productive and I can still do my job,” said Allen who finished with five receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown.
After Ekeler ran in a 5-yard score, Badgley nailed a franchise-record 59-yard ﬁeld goal to close out the ﬁrst half to give Los Angeles a 17-12 lead.
“You [have] got to go out there with that kind of confidence. If you’re going out there thinking you’re going to miss it you probably shouldn’t be kicking it,” said Badgley, who is now 14 of 15 on field goals since taking over the kicker position for the Chargers last month. “It was a way for us to steal momentum from them at the end of the half, go into the second half with more points. It was definitely good for us to get those points at the end of the half.”
Cincinnati ultimately finished with 295 total yards, compared to the Charger’s 288, but a scoreless third quarter dampened any momentum of the Bengals taking a late game lead.
Bengals quarterback, Jeff Driskel made his second straight start since Andy Dalton’s season-ending thumb injury and finished with 18 of 27 for 170 yards and a touchdown.
“We played well on offense played well on first and second downs,” said Driskel. “We made some plays but not the ones we needed. We have to find a way to convert those. There are no moral victories in this league. We have to fight, scratch and claw to get a win.”
Late in the fourth quarter, the Bengals fought hard and got within two, (23-21) after running back Joe Mixon ran in a 1-yard score. Mixon finished with 111 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown.
However, Cincinnati was forced to go for a two-point conversion but failed to convert for the second time of the game.
“The decisions I made today didn’t work out. We didn’t get to make the break. This or that decision put us in situations, whether it’s fourth down and we’ve got to make the stop, the 2-point (conversion) and so forth, those things today, we didn’t get to make the breaks,” said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.
The Bengals still had one final chance after Badgley stretched the Chargers lead to five, (26-21) making a 45-yard ﬁeld goal with 49 seconds remaining.
However, Darius Philon made the play of the game and closed the door on the Bengals chances of any last second heroics by Driskel.
With no timeouts left, Philon sacked Driskel for a nine-yard loss and gave the Chargers their third sack of the day, putting the game away.
“I just felt awesome,” Philon said. “I’m super excited that I made a big play in a big-time situation for our team and got us the W.”