The San Diego Chargers scored a dominating upset win over the CIncinnati Bengals in the wild card round of the playoffs on Sunday. San Diego took the game, 27-10, on Cincinnati turf, taking advantage of three Andy Dalton turnovers. The Chargers went into this game as the six seed with a 9-7 record, making it into the playoffs with an awful lot of help from some other teams choking in Week 17. It's San Diego's first playoff win since 2008, and the third consecutive wild card loss for the Bengals.
It's also yet another playoff game lost by Cincinnati with Marvin Lewis at the helm. He's been in charge of the team for 11 seasons, though the recent losses are more significant given the weapons on the team.
Cincinnati led 10-7 heading into the second half, but allowed 20 consecutive points to a Chargers team that struggled on offense. Philip Rivers threw for just 128 yards off of 12 completions, but didn't throw an interception. He was assisted by 196 rushing yards from primarily Ronnie Brown, Danny Woodhead and Ryan Mathews.
The Bengals played a solid game on the defensive side of the ball, but they failed to create turnovers and with Cincinnati's mistakes on offense, the writing was on the wall. John Gennaro of Bolts From The Blue believes that winning the turnover battle was the key to San Diego's success:
Heading into this game, I thought the Chargers had a chance to win. Most of the Bengals home wins this year required multiple turnovers by the opponent. If the Chargers could avoid turnovers, I thought they could win. Well, not only did San Diego not have a single turnover, they forced the Bengals into four turnovers (including a crucial one at the end of the first half the probably saved the team a touchdown).
One has to wonder where the Bengals go from here. At this point, with a young, talented offense failing to execute, the blame will fall on the head coach and the quarterback. Josh Kirkendall of Cincy Jungle is pulling no punches, noting that the Bengals have been here before and that Dalton deserves as much of the blame as anybody:
Despite all of the signs suggesting that Cincinnati would finally break free from a 23-year old drought without a playoff win, the Bengals did what the Bengals do: Collapse in a big game, lose a playoff game and confirm the talking points about Marvin Lewis failing to get that elusive playoff win, reaching 0-5 for his postseason career. Reexamining his future is going to be fervent, if not with unfavorable consensus.
Andy Dalton will receive a bulk of the criticism, and in one respect, he should. Though the offensive line struggled against San Diego's pass rush, Dalton routinely held onto the football taking sacks or making panic-like throws. Often failing to recognize the blitz, or finding hot reads to get rid of the football, his scrambles usually led to quarterback sacks or untouched fumbles caused by the ground. At one point, feeling a nonexistent pass rush and bailing from the pocket, Dalton was often scrambling into pressure. Failing to recognize the blitz and his hot reads led to much of it.