The Los Angeles Chargers gave their fans yet another bit of a scare, but this time they prevailed instead of blowing it, defeating the Cincinnati Bengals by a final score of 41-22. For a while in the second and third quarters, it was a lot closer than the final score would imply, and it appeared the Chargers were well on their way to choking away a hot start. But the Los Angeles Chargers defense did just enough, including taking advantage of some bizarre Bengals turnovers, to help the team pull away.
Los Angeles Chargers Defense Takes Advantage of Cincinnati Bengals Errors
Inconsistency Is the Theme
For two rather inconsistent teams, this was a pretty fitting game – and this included the performance of the Chargers defense. Early on, they stifled the Bengals offense – they shut down Joe Mixon, and they got a lot more pressure on the quarterback than usual.
Once the Bengals finally found some rhythm, however, things got a bit interesting. Ja’Marr Chase was not able to accomplish as much as usual (more on him later), but Tee Higgins was shredding the secondary. At the moment, it seems that Michael Davis and Asante Samuel Jr are the only cornerbacks on the team that can cover that reliably – and the latter is concussed right now, so Tevaughn Campbell was out there and getting taken advantage of often.
The Los Angeles Chargers defense got a few takeaways on Sunday, and two of them were quite bizarre. The first one came in the first quarter when Joe Burrow tried to throw one of his long bombs to Ja’Marr Chase. Chase appeared to have separation and looked to be burning Michael Davis, who actually did a better job than average compared to most cornerbacks against Chase. However, Chase “dropped” it – and instead of the ball going forwards due to the momentum or straight through his hands, he somehow managed to bat the thing backward – which resulted in the ball landing straight in the hands of Davis, who thus got a very luck interception. Thanks in part to the short field, they got a touchdown off this turnover.
The second bizarre takeaway came early in the fourth and was the big turning point of the game (well, the final turning point anyway – there was more than one). Chargers were up 24-22 and the Bengals had the ball. Joe Mixon, who is finally getting some traction, gets a handoff around the Chargers 40-yard line – and loses the ball. And when we say “lost the ball,” that is not to say that someone punched it out; he literally just dropped the ball for no reason. He was getting contacted from the other side, but no contact with the arm or hand carrying the ball was made. Tevaughn Campbell, who otherwise had a poor day, scooped it up immediately and took the ball back for a touchdown. The Bengals never remotely regained control of the game after that.
Unexpected Strong Defensive Line Play
The Chargers unexpectedly had a strong day from the front seven, which has been a point of weakness for much of the year. This has been the statistically worst run defense in the league, but they held Mixon to just 54 yards on 19 carries – a massive improvement. They also put way more pressure on the quarterback than usual for them, ending up with six sacks – including two for Uchenna Nwosu (who also forced and recovered a fumble) and the first career sack for rookie Chris Rumph. It was to the point where one had to wonder if the Chargers defensive front had finally gotten their act together – or if the Bengals offensive line is just that awful.
As with the rest of the Los Angeles Chargers defense, they were not this good the whole game – Mixon did find a scene a few times during the Bengals scoring run, and Burrow suddenly had more time to throw. But when they did clamp down, they did one of the better jobs that they have done all season.
This was a bit of a wackier win than the final box score might imply, but the Chargers will absolutely take it as they rise to 7-5. On another note, this means Justin Herbert has won his first battle with Joe Burrow; the two have been the clear best quarterbacks of last year’s draft class.
This was certainly a critical and needed win for the Chargers, as they needed a bounce-back win after last week’s surprising loss to the Denver Broncos and gives them a leg up in the clogged AFC West. It was also a win against a fellow AFC playoff contender, giving them some help in tiebreakers if needed. Next up they have a matchup with the New York Giants (4-8), who have been completely listless on offense as of late. This team has been unpredictable, but on paper, this should be an easy win for them before facing off against the Kansas City Chiefs the following Thursday in what may be a division-deciding battle.
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