1:05 PM ET, January 5, 2014
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Sunday Blitz: Chargers-Bengals Recap
CINCINNATI -- Dump it off to the running back, hand it off, let the field goal kicker take it from there.
Philip Rivers didn't have to do a whole lot to get a playoff win. Not with the way San Diego's defense was dominating.
More Chargers-Bengals Coverage
The Chargers were able to avoid the early body blows from the Bengals. And then, San Diego let Cincinnati beat themselves with four costly turnovers, Eric D. Williams writes. Blog
Once again, Andy Dalton came up small on a big stage as the Bengals' QB fell to 0-3 in the postseason, Coley Harvey writes. Blog
And not with the way Andy Dalton was coming apart in the playoffs again.
The Chargers took advantage of Dalton's three turnovers in the second half on Sunday, pulling away to a 27-10 victory that extended San Diego's late-season surge and pushed the Bengals' postseason misery to record levels.
With Rivers making accurate throws in the chilling rain, the Chargers (10-7) won their fifth in a row, beating the last team that had knocked them off. They'll play next Sunday in Denver, which has the AFC's top seed.
The Chargers lost at home to the Broncos 28-20 on Nov. 10, then went to Denver and got a rejuvenating 27-20 victory on Dec. 12 that gave them momentum.
"We will be confident," said Rivers, who was 12 of 16 for 128 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions on a rainy, 40-degree afternoon. "We've got to be careful we're not overconfident, which we won't be. Cincinnati came to our place and won five weeks ago."
The Bengals (11-6) won in San Diego 17-10 on Dec. 1, starting their final push toward the AFC North title. They took advantage of three turnovers in that one.
They turned it over four times on Sunday, with Dalton's fumble and two interceptions in the second half leading to one of the most stunning losses in franchise history. The Bengals had been 8-0 at home and brought the NFL's No. 3 defense -- their highest-ever playoff ranking -- into the game.
Bengals' Drought Continues
Every NFL team has won a playoff game since the Bengals were last victorious in a 1990 wild-card game against the Houston Oilers.
Most Seasons Since Last Playoff Win
|*- Includes 2013|
--ESPN Stats & Information
With everything in their favor, they unraveled in the second half, getting outscored 20-0.
The Bengals now have the sixth-longest streak of playoff futility in NFL history, stretching all the way back to the 1990 season. They've lost their playoff opener three straight years, matching a league record, according to STATS LLC.
"Whatever you do during the regular season doesn't matter once you get to the playoffs," said Dalton, who is 0-3 in the playoffs. "It's disappointing. All the good stuff we did this year, then to come out and not win this game kind of hurts."
Coach Marvin Lewis fell to 0-5 in the playoffs during his 11 seasons as head coach, but is expected to stick around and get another chance to try again.
A lot of it falls on Dalton, who has a trilogy of bad playoff games. He fumbled and threw two interceptions in the second half. Dalton finished 29 of 51 for 334 yards with a below-average passer rating of 67.
The Chargers pressured him in the second half and took advantage of his mistakes. And they didn't turn the ball over in a conservative offense that sometimes grated on Rivers but ultimately worked.
"The way our defense was playing, as long as we didn't have a disaster and we made plays when they were there, we were going to win this game," Rivers said.
Combined with the Saints' victory over the Eagles on Saturday night, the two No. 6 playoff seeds won for the first time since 2010, when the Packers won the Super Bowl.
And the Chargers are thinking: Why not us?
"We're loose, we're confident, we're peaking at the right time," safety Eric Weddle said. "We are a team to be dealt with. We're a confident bunch, especially in the second half, in the fourth quarter. We feel we're ready for those situations. The pressure is not going to get to us."
This one was a reversal from the last time they met. The Bengals forced three turnovers for their win in San Diego.
The Bengals got the rematch at home, where they had scored 49, 41, 41, 42 and 34 points in their last five regular season games. Their 10 points on Sunday were a season low.
Dalton went 17 of 34 for 170 yards with two interceptions, a fumble and three sacks in the second half. In first-round playoff losses each of the past three seasons, Dalton has thrown one touchdown pass and six interceptions.
"We kept Andy on his heels and got him off his spot," Weddle said. "We hit him a bunch and forced big turnovers."
He wasn't the only one with a big gaffe. Rookie running back Giovani Bernard fumbled at the San Diego 3-yard line after a catch in the first half.
Rivers completed a team-record and NFL-best 69.5 percent of his passes this season for 4,478 yards. He was only 5 of 6 in the first half for 48 yards with San Diego frequently backed inside its 20-yard line to start drives.
He completed all of his six passes during a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter that put the Chargers ahead to stay, with his 4-yard pass to Ladarius Green giving San Diego a 14-10 lead.
Dalton then made the mistakes that turned the game, allowing the Chargers to pull ahead. Ronnie Brown finished it off with a 58-yard touchdown run, the longest TD run against the Bengals in their playoff history.
It was San Diego's first playoff win since a 23-17 overtime victory over the Colts in 2008 and its first road playoff win in an open-air stadium since a 17-13 victory in Pittsburgh for the 1994 AFC title. ... The Chargers ran for a season-high 196 yards. They've rushed for at least 144 yards in each of their past five games. ... Marvin Jones caught eight passes for 130 yards, a Bengals playoff record. A.J. Green was limited to three catches for 34 yards.
CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 05: Clark Harris #46 of the Cincinnati Bengals warms up before the start of the AFC Wild...(Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from Penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||5.6||5.6|
Comp - Att
Yards per pass
Sacks - Yards Lost
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||2-4||1-3|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|
|TD||00:48||Danny Woodhead 5 Yd Run (Nick Novak Kick)||7||0|
|TD||05:59||Jermaine Gresham 4 Yd Pass From Andy Dalton (Mike Nugent Kick)||7||7|
|FG||00:00||Mike Nugent 46 Yd||7||10|
|TD||06:46||Ladarius Green 4 Yd Pass From Philip Rivers (Nick Novak Kick)||14||10|
|FG||02:00||Nick Novak 25 Yd||17||10|
|FG||14:16||Nick Novak 23 Yd||20||10|
|TD||02:17||Ronnie Brown 58 Yd Run (Nick Novak Kick)||27||10|
The Chargers sent five or more pass rushers on 4-of-7 dropbacks in the third quarter Sunday (6-of-17 in first half), holding Andy Dalton to 0-of-3 passing with a sack and interception. The Chargers got their best pressure in the first three quarters sending extra rushers before switching to prevent-style defense in the fourth.[+]
Andy Dalton by No. of Pass Rushers - 1st 3 Quarters Sunday
A.J. Green caught 3-of-9 targets for 34 yards Sunday, marking another disappointing playoff performance for the Dalton-to-Green combination. Dalton has completed 13-of-32 postseason attempts to Green in his career, and completed more passes to the Chargers defense (two) than Green (one) in the second half.[+]
The 6th-seeded Chargers have had success on the road against Peyton Manning. Including their win this season in Denver in Week 15, the Chargers have won 4 of the last 5 road games against Manning. And before today, Philip Rivers' only other playoff road win was vs Manning at Indy (2007 Divisional Round, 28-24)[+]
Peyton Manning vs AFC Playoff Teams - Career At Home (Includes Postseason)
Ladarius Green has four career touchdown receptions between the regular season and playoffs. Two of those have been against the Bengals.
This will be the fourth year both 6-seeds advance to the Divisional Playoffs under the current playoff system (since 1990).[+]
Both 6-Seeds Winning in Wild Card, Under Current Playoff System
Philip Rivers posted a Total QBR of 88.9 in his road playoff debut in the 2007 Divisional playoffs, the seventh-highest Total QBR in road playoff games since 2006 (when QBR became available). But after winning that road debut, Rivers is 0-2 in his last two road playoff games with a Total QBR under 40.[+]
Philip Rivers Career in Road Playoff Games
Andy Dalton has scrambled, been sacked or been under duress on all seven of his third-quarter dropbacks. Dalton is 0-3 with an interception and a sack against at least five rushers.
Dalton is only 2-4 for 23 yards targeting A.J. Green and 10-13 for 141 yards with a TD targeting everyone else.
Giovani Bernard's lost fumble was the first fumble lost inside the 5-yard line by a Bengals player this season and only the second over the last 10 seasons (including playoffs).
Antonio Gates has not been targeted today. Gates was targeted at least once in every first half since the start of 2012 (excluding 1 inactive game).
The Bengals have spent 11:40 all season trailing at home in the fourth quarter (led for 114:30 this season). It all came in one game- a Week 3 win against the Packers.
Philip Rivers finished the first half with a total of six pass attempts. That ties for his fewest attempts in a first half in his career (Week 17 2005, Week 1 2006).
The Chargers have gained 50 rush yards after contact today... The Chargers were held to a season-low 22 rush yards after first contact in Week 13 against the Bengals.
The Chargers had only forced 1 red-zone turnover all season. Gio Bernard had only fumbled once all season (not in red zone).
Andy Dalton went 10-of-11 for 146 yards in the first half against four or fewer pass rushers, being put under pressure just once on those plays. Dalton is 2-of-6 for 18 yards against five or more pass rushers and was put under pressure on three of those plays.
Though standout center Nick Hardwick missed time, the Chargers were effective on interior rushes. San Diego had 28 rushes for 162 yards inside the tackles, the Chargers' most since Week 5 of 2011 at Denver. The Chargers had almost twice as many 5-yard rushes as the Bengals defense had allowed per game this season on inside rushes. The Chargers rushed on 68 percent of plays Sunday, their highest rush percentage since Week 15 of 2007 (69 percent vs Lions). The Chargers rushed for 50 yards after contact Sunday. In Week 13, the Chargers were held to a season-low 23 rush yards after contact by the Bengals defense.[+]
Bengals Rush Defense Inside Tackles, 2013
Rivers finished the first half with six passes, but completed all six for 68 yards and a touchdown on the first drive of the third quarter.
Nick Hardwick played in the second most snaps on the Chargers (1,024) this season Chargers averaged 4.1 yards per rush with Hardwick on the field, 1.8 with him off the field
In the Total QBR era (since 2006) no quarterback has struggled in the playoffs as much as Andy Dalton. His Total QBR in the playoffs is the lowest since 2006. On Sunday, the Bengals converted three of 12 third downs (25.0 percent), their second-worst conversion rate of the season behind 7.1 percent in their 41-20 win over the Browns in Week 11. Dalton was sacked three times, and his two interceptions came on throws less than 10 yards downfield.[+]
ESPN Stats & Information