NFL Team Report - Cincinnati Bengals - INSIDE SLANT
The score did not say it all, but it was an ugly clue: San Diego Chargers 27, Cincinnati Bengals 10. From Cincinnati's perspective the loss was greater than the score.
The Bengals were trying to end a 23-year playoff drought but instead went one-and-done in the postseason for the fifth time under head coach Marvin Lewis. The Bengals went undefeated at home in the regular season but lost its third consecutive home playoff game under Lewis.
"The finality of things hurt when you lose in the playoffs," Lewis said. "The biggest difference was turnovers. We turned the ball over, gave them points and field position, and we failed to get any on our side. It's the difference in the football game. I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed by us."
Quarterback Andy Dalton lost in the playoffs for the third consecutive year. He's the only quarterback in franchise history to lead the team to three straight postseason appearances but he has had miserable performances each time. He completed 29 of 51 passes for 334 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions Sunday. The Chargers sacked Dalton three times. Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green was a non-factor in the game, catching just three passes for 34 yards.
"Unfortunately, the last three years, we haven't been able to win one of these playoff games," Dalton said. "Obviously there is going to be a lot of criticism and talk, but until you win and prove people wrong, people can say whatever they want."
Cincinnati won its previous three games against San Diego, including 17-10 on Dec. 1 in San Diego. That is the last game Chargers lost.
San Diego rushed for 196 yards against the NFL's fifth-ranked rushing defense. San Diego averaged 4.9 yards per rush against a Cincinnati team that allowed just 96.5 yards on the ground during the regular season.
Chargers running back Ronnie Brown had 77 yards on eight carries, including a 58-yard touchdown run with 2:17 left to seal the victory, while Danny Woodhead had 54 yards and one touchdown, and Ryan Mathews added 52 yards on the ground.
San Diego (10-7) won for the fifth consecutive week and advanced to play at top-seeded Denver (13-3) next Sunday. The Chargers forced four Cincinnati turnovers, including two interceptions and a fumble by Dalton in the second half, and shut out the AFC North champions in the second half.
Cincinnati outgained the Chargers, 439-318, but San Diego did not turn the ball over.
Both teams punted on their opening possessions. San Diego, which led the NFL in drives of 10-plus plays and time of possession this season, took the lead on its second drive with a 5-yard touchdown run by Woodhead. The Chargers drove 86 yards on 12 plays and used up 6:56 of the clock on that drive.
The Bengals tied the score on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to tight end Jermaine Gresham with 5:59 left in the first half, capping a 10-play, 60-yard drive. The Bengals ran the ball seven times on the drive, while running back Giovani Bernard had six touches for 39 yards.
Bernard had 118 combined yards on 12 runs and seven receptions but he cost the Bengals a shot at a touchdown late in the first half when he lost a fumble inside the San Diego 5. Chargers linebacker Donald Butler, who was beaten in coverage on the play, came from behind and stripped Bernard of the ball.
San Diego went three-and-out on its possession and the Bengals eventually scored on a 46-yard field goal by Mike Nugent on the final play of the half but keeping Cincinnati out of the end zone kept the Bengals from seizing momentum.
"Donald made a great play and that gave us a little momentum and we just tried to ride that wave," said linebacker Melvin Ingram. "Anytime a team gets down there and you can hold them to three, it's always big."
Nick Novak had field goals of 25 and 23 yards for the Chargers in the second half as they built a 20-10 lead.
NFL Team Report - Cincinnati Bengals - NOTES, QUOTES
Cincinnati scored at least 34 points in its last five home games of the regular season, including four games with at least 41 points. But the Bengals have not scored more than 17 points in their last six playoff games.
--WR Marvin Jones set a Cincinnati record with 130 receiving yards on eight catches.
--Attendance was 62,277. The Bengals had to get an extension from the NFL to sell out the game and have it shown on local TV.
NFL Team Report - Cincinnati Bengals - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PRO BOWL SELECTIONS (2)
Player, position, Pro Bowls
Vontaze Burfict, ILB/MLB, 1
A.J. Green, Wide Receiver, 3