Coming into the 2014 NFL Playoffs by the skin of their teeth, the San Diego Chargers took on the Cincinnati Bengals in a game where they could prove they belong in the postseason. The Bengals, at home, faced the possibility for a third year in a row to be ousted in the first round.
What the Chargers did to the Bengals in this one cannot be understated in the least. San Diego absolutely dominated the Bengals.
The first half was pretty even in terms of scoring, but the Chargers’ defense held their own in allowing the Bengals only 10 first half points. The second half, though, is where San Diego stood tall as they blanked the Bengals. San Diego’s offense took over the third and fourth quarter and ultimately won by the score of 27-10.
After the intermission, the Chargers’ defensive line stepped it up to another level. In the first half, Andy Dalton was hurried often. In the second half, he was constantly working to avoid a rush. The dominant performance by San Diego’s front seven led to a total of two interceptions and a lost fumble by the Cincinnati quarterback; not to mention plenty of poor throws, scrambles for negative yardage and three sacks.
Offensively, the Chargers fooled Cincinnati into thinking that Philip Rivers would be throwing all day long. When the final whistle blew, the Chargers had rushed for a total of 196 yards and two scores. Rivers played well, going 12-for-16. He threw for 128 yards and a touchdown without throwing a pick, but was more or less able to manage the game due to the dominant rushing performance.
Ronnie Brown ran it eight times for 77 yards, including a game-sealing 58-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. Danny Woodhead rushed 15 times for 54 yards and a score and Ryan Mathews took it 52 yards on 13 carries. Overall, the Chargers’ rushing performance was most definitely the story in this game.
The Chargers took one of the best defenses in the entire league and ran it down their throat 40 times in this game. If they can continue to pound the rock, thus taking pressure off of Rivers and allowing the opposing defenses to stay honest, San Diego will score enough points to keep up with anyone in the postseason.
Defensively, John Pagano’s group played arguably their best game of the season when they needed it most. Going forward, they should have some momentum knowing that they can get to the quarterback, thus affecting the outcome of the game as a whole. Next week, against the Denver Broncos, the pass rush will have to be top-notch in order to stop Peyton Manning. If the Chargers can get in Manning’s face and continually put pressure on him, they will absolutely have a shot to win the game.
How far do these Super Chargers go? If they play the way they did Sunday against Cincinnati, there’s no telling when this magical season will end. What we do know, is that they are every bit deserving to be in the playoffs and proved that fact with a phenomenal performance in the opening wildcard round.