Dec 1, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) reacts after a penalty during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Qualcomm Stadium. The Bengals won 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers vs Bengals: What Went Wrong Last Time?


I, like all of you, was left in just as much shock as Philip Rivers (pictured above) following the Chargers game against the Cincinnati Bengals in week 13. The Chargers didn’t exactly play horribly, but for some reason, it was the most painful loss of the season. Maybe because the Chargers were coming off a huge upset win in Kansas City, or maybe because at the time it all but assured our exclusion from the playoffs. The offense finished with over 330 yards, but only scored 10 points. The defense only allowed 17 points, yet we suffered a crushing loss. So, what went wrong?

What Went Wrong On Offense:

1. The Running Game

Ryan Mathews only rushed the ball 14 times. Mathews was nursing a sore hamstring, but he was running well, averaging 4.4 yard per carry and had a few rushes over 10 yards. The Chargers instead went with Danny Woodhead, but even he only had 7 rushing attempts. The Chargers instead leaned too heavily on Philip Rivers, with 37 passing attempts, completing only 62% of them. The Chargers passed the pass time and time again on 3rd & short, and it killed a few drives. Leaning on Rivers was especially hard because of…


2. Horrible Interior Pass Protection

This game was directly in the middle of the Chargers’ game of musical O-line. The Chargers had a starting lineup of  Fluker-Troutman-Hardwick-Rinehart-Clary. The unit wasn’t horrible, but they committed a few bad false start penalties and gave up an insane amount of pressure up the middle. The Bengals blitzed up with middle with Vontaze Burfict and James Harrison consistently, and it wreaked havoc on the Chargers’ offense. Philip Rivers was forced to throw it away and make quick check downs to Mathews and Woodhead far too soon. The pass rush was breaking down plays before any receivers had time to get open, so only receivers that could make hard catches in contact (Allen, Gates) were effective.


3. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers…

Wow. This should probably be #1, because turnovers are the easiest way to explain this loss. Antonio Gates fumbled twice near the redzone. TWICE. Gates lost 2 fumbles in his ENTIRE CAREER before this season. He lost 2 in this game (only one counted, the other was ruled an interception because he fumbled it before he even came down with the ball.) If the Chargers avoided just one of those crucial turnovers, they probably would have scored on one of those possessions and taken the lead. They were killer. The Chargers only ended up losing by 1 score, so even only one break could have led to a victory. Keenan Allen also fumbled inside our own 35 yardline. The Bengals ended up fumbling it back to us, but it wasted time and could have easily put the bengals up by another score.


4. Slow Starts

The Chargers didn’t score until 11:11 left in the 2nd quarter. They didn’t score in the 2nd half until 4:43 remaining in the game. The slow starts were made worse by turnovers, but the Chargers just couldn’t get it together until it was too late. They almost had that problem again last week against the Chiefs, but they happened to be playing backups. The Bengals are a playoff team and will certainly not be playing their backups, so the Chargers need to improve their effort and intensity from the start of the game AND the 2nd half.


What Went Wrong On Defense:

1. Tackling

The Chargers just could not tackle anyone in the open field. The secondary gave the Bengals receivers so much cushion on the line that the Bengals just started running receiver screens and letting them run by our defenders. AJ Green is not exactly a bulldozer, so this was hard to watch. Benjarvus Green-Ellis is a bulldozer, so imagine (or remember) how much worse the tackling was in the running game. The first touchdown drive by the Bengals, 47 of the 67 yards were covered by Green-Ellis and Giovanni Bernard just smashing away at the Chargers defense. The secondary just couldn’t bring either one down without getting dragged 5 more yards.


2. Rush Defense

This may be a little unfair, because for the most part, the rush defense was OK for a lot of the game. Not great, but OK. They held the Bengals rushers to short gains for much of the game, and dropped them for losses 4 times. But, just like always, consistency was the issue. The defense could not keep the Bengals from breaking off the big play, no matter the situation. The Bengals ended with 164 yards rushing, averaging 4.3 yards per rush. This not only pounded the Chargers’ defense for a TD and tired them out, but it wasted clock for the Chargers offense. The name of the game for the Chargers is time of possession, so the rush defense must improve on Sunday.


3. Confusion in the Secondary

The secondary has played better as of late. In fact, it seems like this Bengals game was a turning point for the secondary. The strength of Cincinnati is the deep pass to superstar receiver AJ Green. The Chargers secondary held Green to a long of 28 yards. Again, OK, but not great. During that play, and several other times during the game, the secondary looked confused, unaware of what their job was or where they should be on the field. On AJ Green’s scoring play, Marcus Gilchrist was so far out of position that Green could have crawled into the endzone and still scored. Not to mention, they probably couldn’t have tackled him if they were in position. The secondary has played much better lately, and must improve even more to shut down the Bengals offense.


Look out for Chargers vs Bengals: What Went Well Last Time? later this week to see what did go well last game, and how we can exploit it again on Sunday.


Bolt Up!

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  • Pablo Reyna

    Nice article but no way was the bengals loss the most painful of the season 3. Houston up by 21 lose because refs 2. Jake locker throws a pass to someone’s first NFL catch for last second Hail Mary loss 3. Washington redskins McCoy turns into Norv 2.0 refuses to martyball for the win and outsmarts himself on the goaline for the loss

  • ChargerGirl Cindi

    Hey Conor, this hit Bleacher Report! Congrats dude!

  • bk

    Bull’s eye Connor! Right on! It was an inept display of football on every level and in every dimension. In short, the Bolts stunk up Qualcomm….Rivers must not let the Bengals get set in their defense. Philip must stop his gyrations, pointings, and doing Peyton imitations, all the while wasting clock. It must be up tempo! Hike the ball for crying out loud! Don’t let those Bengal beasts get dug in. Keep them off guard…..The Bolt O Line better show up huge in pass protection and opening holes for Ryan and Danny. Last time against the Bengals, they looked like boys against men, and that is not an exaggeration. They are going to have to get down, dirty, and mean, for the cocky, confident Bengal D Line reduced the Bolt’s O Line from Bolts to flickers. It all begins and ends in the trenches……Matthews must have the game of his life, and Woody must stop this showboating after getting first downs. It is time for Woody to become a meaner machine, and start breaking tough runs into longer yardage. It is time to stop the cutesie stuff and become a tough sucker…..The Bolt D Line pass rush better show up big time, or Dalton will shred our secondary. No zone defense stuff. It must be pass defense by tight man-to-man assignment. Be all over their receivers from the line of scrimmage like junebugs on screen doors. The D Line and Teo must limit the Law Firm to three yards or less. Ben Jarvis last time ran through the Bolt D Line like water through a sieve….Burfict is going to be on Matthews and Woodhead like stink on a skunk. We must block that animal who last time devoured Woodhead and Matthews. Listen Wisenhunt, everyone in the universe knows by now the two plays that you assign to Woody – out slants and quick crossing pattern. Even Grandma Moses knows what’s coming when you put Woody in there. Come on man, get creative, and use Woody on some screens, delays, dumps, etc. Even a wheel route now and then. The gig is up! Burfict has this thing nailed. Spice and juice it up with flavors that Burfict has never tasted…..It is a new season against the best in the NFL. Out-think ‘em! Out-smart ‘em. Out-maneuver ‘em. Go Bolts! Tame the tigers!

    • Peter Thompson

      Wow… dem’s some crazy metaphors you got there.. hahahaha!

  • Gunnar Martin

    Of course this was the one game I ever decided to go to. They probably just stunk cuz I was there lol. They better do well this time.

    • Peter Thompson

      Lol.. it wasn’t you, Gunnar. If you go back to last year’s game against the Bengals in the exact same week, The Chargers played pretty much as awful in that game too. In my opinion, the way to beat the Bengals is to get an early lead, and force them to throw the ball in cold weather. We had all kinds of trouble stopping Green-Ellis last year too. If we can’t stop him & Bernard, it will be a LONG game. The fact that Lissemore is still nursing that shoulder really bums me out. Cam literally got bulldozed all day in the last meeting. He actually looked decent against the Chiefs this weekend, getting some stops for a loss. However, Conor said it perfectly above… it’s the consistency that kills us.

  • arnie

    Couldn’t have said it better. Here’s to hoping the second time’s the charm for the Bolts.

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