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Bolts Charge through Cincy, Advance to AFC Divisional Playoff
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The Bengals won the opening toss and opted to defer, giving the Bolts the ball first. A seven yard run by Ryan Mathews followed by a four yard pass to Danny Woodhead gave the Chargers a quick first down. Three plays later on 3rd-and-5, Rivers was sacked by Chris Crocker and Vontaze Burfict for a loss of six, forcing a 50-yard punt by Mike Scifres. The Bengals started their first drive of the day on their own 19, two runs by BenJarvus Green-Ellis moved the ball up to the 35-yard line. After Green-Ellis picked up a first down on 3rd-and-short, Kendall Reyes deflected a quick screen at the line of scrimmage and then Donald Butler took down Giovani Bernard for a three-yard loss. On 3rd-and-13, the Bolts tackled Marvin Jones four yards shy of the sticks to force a Zoltan Mesko punt. Starting at their own 14-yard line, Mathews ran for eight yards on first down and then Ronnie Brown caught an outlet pass for nine yards. Two plays later, Ladarius Green hauled in a 22-yard pass into Cincinnati territory. Mathews and Brown again combined for a first down, muscling their way to the 29-yard line. Two plays on 3rd-and-inches, Mathews powered his way just over the sticks for a first down in the red zone. On first down it looked like Rivers was going to be sacked but wiggled free and threw a tear drop pass to Woodhead for an 11-yard gain for first-and-goal from the seven. Two plays later, Woodhead took a handoff, started to the right then cut left up the middle for a touchdown and 7-0 lead. The scoring drive went 12 plays for 86 yards over 6:56. Brandon Tate took the ensuing kickoff up to the Bengals 36-yard line, and Cincy picked up a first down as the opening quarter came to a close.
On 3rd-and-1 just over a minute into the second quarter, Dalton went play action and looked for Bernard but the ball fell incomplete and the Bengals punted. A penalty on the kick backed the Bolts to their own five-yard line. After two Mathews runs brought up 3rd-and-3, Rivers miscommunicated with Keenan Allen and San Diego had to punt, with Scifres booming one that Tate fair caught at his own 40. The Bengals had 3rd-and-1 after two Bernard runs, and Green-Ellis ran seven yards into Chargers territory, and Jermaine Gresham gained 10 on a pass to move the ball to the 34-yard line. A fake wide receiver screen that was actually a middle screen to Bernard moved the Bengals into the red zone at the 20-yard line. Eventually on 2nd-and-goal, Melvin Ingram was a hair shy of a sack as Dalton hit Gresham at the goal line to tie the game at 7-7. On 3rd-and-4, Rivers had to scramble but came up just shy of a first down and after another punt, the Bengals began their next drive at their own 32-yard line. Marvin Jones made a diving catch for a first down that Head Coach Mike McCoy challenged, but the play stood as the home team neared midfield. On first down Ingram got great pressure and Gresham was forced to hold him, bringing up 1st-and-20, but on 2nd-and-19, Marvin Jones hauled in a deep 49-yard bomb to the Bolts 19-yard line. Fortunately, on the next play, Butler stripped Bernard and Richard Marshall recovered in the end zone for a key turnover. A holding call on Antonio Gates made it 1st-and-13 at the eight, and the Bolts decided to run it three times to force Cincinnati to use all their timeouts. Scifres blasted a terrific 51-yard punt and Darrell Stuckey took Tate down for a five yard loss, giving the Bengals the ball at their own 32 with 1:14 to go in the second quarter. A.J. Green caught a pass on second down for a first down, and then Mohammed Sanu took the ball to the Bolts 41-yard line. Gresham caught a 13-yard pass to set up a 46-yard Mike Nugent field goal to give Cincy a 10-7 lead at the half.
The Bengals started the second half with the ball at their own 33, and they picked up a first down right away on a Green-Ellis 12-yard scamper. Three plays later on 3rd-and-4, terrific coverage helped Corey Liuget sack Dalton for a one-yard loss, and Mesko’s punt went into the end zone for a touchback. Mathews caught a pass in the flat for nine yards, then picked up the first down as number 24 powered his way to the 32-yard line. Three plays later on 3rd-and-1, Keenan Allen caught a crossing route for nine yards to the 50-yard line. Two Woodhead runs brought up 3rd-and-5, and Rivers hit Green for a gain of eight to continue the drive. On first down, Rivers threw a beauty of a pass to Eddie Royal for 33-yards to the four-yard line. The Bolts then retook the lead as Green caught a fade in the left corner of the end zone, using his 6-6 height to give the team a 14-10 advantage. Jarret Johnson sacked Dalton for a four yard loss on first down, then pressured him to throw the ball away on second. Facing a 3rd-and-14, Dalton tried to scramble for a first down and dove, but the ball popped loose as he hit the ground and Jahleel Addae recovered at the Cincinnati 46. A reverse to royal went for nine yards on first down, then Woodhead sprinted for nine to the 27-yard line. Three plays later on 3rd-and-7, Rivers hit Allen at the 13-yard line for a 12-yard pick up. Woodhead was the intended target on 3rd-and-3, but the ball went behind him and the Bolts settled for a 25-yard field goal for a 17-10 lead. Forcing the Bengals into a 3rd-and-9, Shareece Wright stepped up and picked off Dalton, returning it 30 yards to the three-yard line. A delay of game backed it up to the seven, and eventually the Bolts got it to 3rd-and-goal from the one as the third quarter came to a close.
Ronnie Brown was tackled for a loss as he ran off tackle, and the Chargers settled for another Novak field goal to take a 20-10 lead. A pair of passes gave the Bengals two first
The Bolts trailed 10-7 when the second half began with the Bengals getting the ball. The defense held firm to force a punt, and then the Chargers offense turned up the heat. Philip Rivers was a perfect 6-for-6 on an 80-yard drive that culminated with a Ladarius Green fade in the back corner of the end zone. The Chargers took the lead for good and never looked back on their way to a 27-10 victory.
It was Over When…
Needing a first down to essentially ice the game, Ronnie Brown got that and much more. The veteran running back broke free for a 58-yard touchdown that sent the home fans to the exits early as the Chargers took a 17 point lead with 2:17 remaining.
Play of the Game
As the first half was coming to a close, it looked like the Bengals were poised to score a touchdown. Andy Dalton found Giovani Bernard over the middle of the field and the rookie running back turned and headed for the end zone. Donald Butler had other plans though as the inside linebacker punched the ball loose. Richard Marshall scooped it up in the end zone for the game-changing play.
Stat of the Game
The four turnovers forced by the defense were the most in a game this season.
“We’re just worried about ourselves right now. We’ve said it all week long (that) it’s about us, and we’re going to take it one week at a time and just keep going.” – Head Coach Mike McCoy
“We just played better together consistently. There were some games early in the year where the offense was rolling and defensively we just couldn’t get it together, and vice versa. There have been games –Cincinnati being the first time – when the defense was rolling, and we couldn’t get it going. We have played better team ball for five weeks in a row. We’ve been fired up all week about getting into the playoffs, but we’ve been in playoff mode for five weeks. This is the fifth round for us. We knew if we lost one more, we’d be done, so that continues through the playoffs.” – Quarterback Philip Rivers
“Man, this feels amazing. Just coming in we knew we were the underdog so we came out swinging. We know the guys in this locker room and in this organization, we’re all one. We knew we had to play our game and we played our game and it was good enough and it showed on the field.” – Fullback Le’Ron McClain
“It’s just us being a piece of the puzzle. We’re just trying to come back and contribute anyway we can.” – Outside linebacker Melvin Ingram
“They had a tremendous game on the defensive side. All the three-and-outs and four turnovers, they played tremendously. That’s what it’s about, and we were able to put up points and hold them to only 10.” – Wide Receiver Keenan Allen
“I know the situation being up 10. I was (thinking) ‘Do I slide? We still have a chance to run some clock.’ But I think if I get in the end zone now it’s a three possession game. So I thought get a touchdown because the defense is doing a great job.” – Running Back Ronnie Brown
“Great game called by Coach Pagano. He put me in position to jump anything that’s coming short to the flat. I read the play and I jumped it” – Cornerback Shareece Wright
Odds and Ends
Philip Rivers finished 12 of 16 for 128 yards and one touchdown for a 118.8 passer rating.
Ladarius Green led the team with three catches for 34 yards while adding one touchdown.
Danny Woodhead led all rushers with 15 attempts while Ronnie Brown had a game-high 77 yards. Both had touchdowns on the day.
Donald Butler had a team-high 12 tackles.
Corey Liuget, Jarret Johnson and Cam Thomas all had sacks.
The Chargers had a massive day on the ground, churning out 196 yards rushing.