In the NFL, the difference between winning and losing is often marginal. That’s why the Cincinnati Bengals‘ recent run of convincing victories has been so notable. The Bengals beat the New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders during a three game stretch that resulted in a combined score of 91-29. For a team right in the mix of a playoff push, racking up victories is very important, however the Bengals reached the playoffs last year and lost in the first round convincingly to the Houston Texans by a score of 31-10.
Winning games convincingly against lesser opposition helps you get to the playoffs, but if that is all you do during the regular season then you will likely be on the wrong end of one of those results in the post-season. That isn’t exactly what happened to the Bengals last season, but it still would have been a tough awakening call if they had steamrolled their way to the playoffs without being tested in a close game. Against the San Diego Chargers this past Sunday, the Bengals won their first close game since beating the Cleveland Browns in Week 12.
The Bengals beat the Chargers by a score of 20-13, but entered the fourth quarter down by 13-10. An Andy Dalton touchdown run, and a Mike Nugent field goal following the first of two turnovers, eventually gave the team a fourth quarter comeback victory. Both the Bengals’ offense and defense contributed to the come-from-behind victory at crucial stages. After Dalton ran in a touchdown from six yards out with just over four minutes to go, Carlos Dunlap sacked Philip Rivers and forced a fumble deep in Chargers’ territory. Despite only scoring a field goal after getting the ball, the Bengals’ defense came up with another turnover, this time a game sealing interception, deep in their own territory with less than a minute to go. Reggie Nelson intercepted Rivers on fourth and 10 in the endzone as he tried to hit Malcolm Floyd for the game-tying touchdown.
Even though the Chargers are 4-8, were 4-7 entering the game, they were a very difficult matchup for the Bengals because of their overall physicality and a number of individual matchups. By standing up to the Chargers in San Diego in a clutch situation, the Bengals replicated what will be needed in a playoff scenario, or even potentially against the Pittsburgh Steelers later this year in an elimination game. By coming out on top, they have at the very least proven their own capability of coming up big opposed to feasting on lesser, underperforming opposition. Of course, in the playoffs, the Bengals will face off against better quality opposition, but the scenario remains the same.