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Wild Card Woe: Bengals bow out of the playoffs, losing to SD 27-10
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The last time the Bengals left a stadium with a playoff win, it was January of 1991 and they had just smashed the old Houston Oilers at the old Riverfront Stadium by a score of 41-14. Its been 23-years since the Bengals Nation tasted any playoff success, but they were favored to reverse that trend today.
The champions of the AFC North welcomed the AFCs last wild card entry to Paul Brown Stadium for a trip to the divisional round next weekend.
In the first quarter it appeared San Diego was a little more interested in going back to Denver next week. After both teams exchanged punts, the Chargers took over from their own 14-yard line and promptly went on a drive that last more than six minutes, and culminated in Danny Woodheads five yard touchdown run to give San Diego the early 7-0 lead.
On Cincinnatis ensuing possession the chains were moving, all the way beyond mid-field, but Andy Dalton missed Gio Bernard on a swing pass into the flat on 3rd and short and again, the Bengals were forced to punt it away to a Chargers team, which had mounting confidence.
But Phillip Rivers and Keenan Allen failed to connect on a 3rd down play that wouldve kept San Diegos next drive alive, and a punt to mid-field left the Bengals in good shape. This time they did something with it, as Andy Dalton and Gio Bernard led an 11-play scoring drive. Dalton beat the pressure from the back side and found the end zone for the first time in his post-season career, with a short touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham tying the game at seven in the 2nd quarter.
Towards the end of the first half, the Chargers made a typical, playing not-to-lose move by running the ball four straight times inside their own 10 with under 2:00 to go in the half. Cincinnati had all three of its time outs and used them to get the ball back with plenty of time to move within range for a field goal attempt. And thats just what they did. Jermaine Gresham came up with a big sideline catch with seconds to go, which didnt stop the clock, but the Bengals managed to stop it with a line of scrimmage spike with :02 remaining. Mike Nugent then drilled a 46-yard field goal as time expired and the Bengals had a 10-7 lead at halftime.
Cincinnati had the ball first to open the 3rd quarter but went three and out, and San Diego took over from its own 20 and went 80 yards to take the lead. Vontaze Burfict was injured early in the series, but later returned. He couldnt prevent what was about to happen. Phillips Rivers hit a deep ball with Eddie Royal down near the goal line, and his next pass was a fade to Ladarius Green in the back corner of the end zone as San Diego took a 14-10 lead on Greens athletic, toe-tapping reception.
The Bengals next possession couldnt have gone any worse. Dalton was sacked on 1st down, and then on 3rd and 14, he took off, diving head first for the marker, only to lose control of the football as he hit the turf. The ground cant cause a fumble, unless a player is diving head first, hasnt been touched, and isnt giving himself up to end the play. San Diego took over on the Bengals 46 yard line. Cincinnatis defense limited the Chargers to a 25-yard field goal from Nick Novak and San Diego held a 17-10 lead later in the third.
Then Bad Andy as the fans like to call him around here reared himself again. Granted he had no time to throw, but delivering a pass while back pedaling into traffic isnt the move of a veteran QB. Daltons pass was intercepted by Shareece Wright, and returned to the Cincinnati three. The defense once again did its job and held the Chargers to a field goal, but clearly the game was slipping away from the Bengals as the rain began to fall at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals defense was forced to make another big play as San Diego had a 3rd at the Bengals 40 following a second Dalton interception. That unit held again, and San Diego was forced to punt. Bengals trailed by ten with a little more than 8:00 remaining.
But the Bengals offense continued to sputter and wasnt able to get beyond the 50, and San Diego sent everyone for the exits when Ronnie Brown broke off a 58-yard touchdown run just before the two minute warning.
Bengals are eliminated in the opening round for the third straight season, the playoff drought reaches 24-years, and the Chargers will head for Denver and the divisional round against the Broncos.