An almost flawless second half of play led the San Diego Chargers to a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on a surprisingly decent day of January weather in Ohio.
While Philip Rivers wasn’t on fire in the first half, he was super efficient and on target, going 5/6 with no INTs or touchdowns. The Bengals looked sound in the second quarter, moving the ball well and doing what they needed to do to take the lead into the break. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton played grounded football and looked like the post-season leader the franchise has needed for the last two decades.
But that was all flushed away when a downpour of Charger defense took over in the second half.
The Bolts forced turnovers and stopped crucial drives with hurries and most importantly, strict coverage on one of the NFL’s most prolific pass catchers, AJ Green. Ultimately, it came down to mistakes by Dalton, who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, which San Diego translated into a two-score lead going into the fourth quarter.
In what was probably an already game-winning possession, Charger running back Ronnie Brown scrambled easily for a long touchdown run to put the game well out of reach for the drenched squad from Cincinnati. The Bengals appeared to simply give up the game on that play, despite a somewhat successful but ultimately fruitless scramble for the end zone in the closing seconds.
What a December it’s been for the team from SD. So many things fell into place for them to reach the post-season that one has to wonder if this isn’t a team of destiny.
However, truth be told, Peyton Manning isn’t exactly one for tradition. He’s blown away every expectation that was had for him after his neck surgery two years ago. They guy flat out passes the ball. Without question, the Bolts have a tough one next week.
Some things of note for the Bolts include Ryan Mathews’s absence in the second half and Nick Hardwick’s “assumed” concussion. They said it was a neck stinger, but the truth and NFL injury reports are not fast friends.
Oh, and let’s not forget the play of QB Philip Rivers, who was voted to his fifth Pro Bowl and has served as the field leader all season long. His energy, his spirit and clearly his play has made a tremendous difference in the outcome of the 2013-14 season.
This was a team win all around, but it’s safe to say the San Diego defense executed an impeccable second-half game plan by keeping the ball away from AJ Green, recovering critical fumbles, making interceptions and ensuring Andy Dalton continued to step on his tail.
Coaches McCoy, Pagano and Whisenhunt (please don’t go) have earned themselves a great deal of gratitude from Chargers fans for this late season turn-around. As did ownership. Clearly, some good decisions have been made.