The Cincinnati Bengals haven't won a playoff game in 24 years. Andy Dalton's only been around for three of those seasons, but right now it sure seems like he exemplifies the myriad of errors in Cincinnati that's plagued them for nearly a quarter-century. Despite leading the Bengals to the AFC North title this season and setting franchise single-season records for yards and touchdowns, Dalton faltered, turning the ball over three times, as Cincinnati lost 27-10 to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
Despite the Bengals defense putting together another strong performance, they could not overcome the mistakes made by Dalton and the offense. The Chargers intercepted Dalton two times and forced three fumbles. Well, sort of forced. At one point in the third quarter, Dalton dove forward and lost a fumble to the ground ... untouched. That was just one of several mistakes that stopped important drives, including a Giovani Bernard lost fumble deep in San Diego territory near the end of the first half that ended another drive.
While most expected to see Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to be the key to beating the Bengals, he was contained to just 128 yards passing and one touchdown, letting the running game, the defense, and Dalton do the rest. San Diego picked up 196 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, without Ryan Matthews for most of the second half.
It is the fifth straight postseason loss for Cincinnati, dating back to a January, 1990 win over the Houston Oilers in the wild card round. Though Dalton has led the Bengals to three straight playoff appearances for the first time in franchise history, he has now thrown one touchdown and six interceptions in three losses.Kenneth Arthur
Down 10 points early in the fourth quarter and driving, there was still plenty of time for Cincinnati to complete a comeback to at least force overtime. With a first-and-10 at the Chargers 35-yard line however, Dalton threw an interception, his second, to San Diego's Melvin Ingram to kill another drive.
If that wasn't bad enough, there was a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty called after the interception to really express the frustration of another playoff loss.
"Philip Rivers played great, but his stat line is rather pedestrian. Ryan Mathews played great, until he left the game with an ankle injury. Ronnie Brown inexplicably played great in his place. The offense wasn't bad, but they didn't win this game. The winner of this game was the Chargers defense, their pass rush, and and ascension to superstardom that Melvin Ingram appears to be on."
-- Bolts from the Blue
The Chargers advance to play the Denver Broncos next Sunday, January 12, at 1:40 PM EST. An obviously-familiar foe, the two teams split their season series this year; Denver beat San Diego 28-20 in Week 10, but lost to them 27-20 in Week 15 in Denver on Thursday NIght Football. The two teams have never met in the playoffs before.
Denver had beaten San Diego in four straight contests before its loss in December. Peyton Manning is 7-4 in his career against the Chargers, Rivers is 10-7 against the Broncos.