It wasn't a perfect game for the Chargers defense.
It didn't matter.
They were perfect when they absolutely needed to be, and that proved to be the difference in a hard-fought 26-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
"Defensively, we stopped them when we had to," Head Coach Anthony Lynn explained. "We knew that they were going to run the football, and they're a good running team. They controlled the clock that way. I tip my hat off to them. I thought they played a good game with the weapons they have, but we stopped them when we needed to."
While the stat sheet wasn't the prettiest, the big plays the Bolts made certainly were.
The team stopped two key two-point conversions on the afternoon, the first coming in the waning seconds of the opening half. Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis opted against an extra point attempt following a John Ross touchdown, looking instead to tie the game up at 14-all.
Jeff Driskel took the snap and quickly fired to Giovani Bernard. Derwin James read it all the way, dropping the running back on the spot to preserve the lead.
"Bend don't break (is the staple of our defense)," said Jatavis Brown. "I know you hear it a lot, but that's kind of what we live by; bend don't break. We don't want to bend, but if it happens, we just don't break."
The defense also proved stingy on a pivotal 4th-and-1 early in the third quarter. The Bengals rolled the dice on the opening half's opening possession from their own 35, giving the rock to Joe Mixon. Darius Philon was one of a few who blew the play up early, forcing the second-year back to bounce it outside.
While Michael Davis is known for his speed, the cornerback showed impressive power to stand up Mixon, keeping him shy of the sticks as Jahleel Addae came in to finish the job.
Another play the Bolts needed.
Another play in which the defense delivered.
"I saw him try to come out, and was like, 'Shoot, I've got to bump him," Davis said, recounting what happened. "I bumped him a bit. "He tried to keep moving on, I grabbed him by his waist and I pulled him back. And then my dog Jahleel came down and we got that stop."
Then there's Darius Philon's huge sack on Cincy's second two-point try of the day.
The Bengals looked to tie things up following Mixon's one-yard touchdown run with 1:54 left in the game, but Driskel had nowhere to throw as the pocket collapsed around him. Philon led the charge, dropping the quarterback to preserve the team's late lead.
"It was finishing," Philon said. "That was one of the plays where I was just finishing. I was super exited that I made a big play in a big-time situation for our team and got us the W…. Oh, man. I knew I had done something good (so I celebrated a lot). I can't remember anything but just being excited for me and the team."
"Darius stepped up this game a lot," Lynn added. "He made a few plays for us, but that's kind of the signature of this defense."
Finally, Uchenna Nwosu came up huge on the final drive of the game.
The Bengals got the ball back with 43 seconds left trailing by five. After an incomplete pass, Nwosu pounded Driskel for a nine-yard loss that also kept the clock moving. Caught in disarray, the Bengals scrambled to the line of scrimmage, where Driskel took the snap and fired a completion to Cody Core. However, Davis was there to tackle him in bounds, and there was nothing left to do but watch as the clock struck zero and the Chargers headed into the locker room with their 10th win of the season.
"It wasn't just me," Nwosu said. "Great coverage back there by the defensive backs. For them to be able to give me the amount of time to get to the quarterback was huge. So, I congratulated them…We're playing great football. We're playing a lot smarter than how we did earlier in the season. Less penalties, less mistakes on our end, and we're just playing a lot of smart football."
View the best of the Bolts as they take on the Bengals at ROKiT Field at StubHub Center for Week 14's matchup.