With this game between the San Diego Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals, I was hoping that the Bengals would win this game in spite of a bunch of turnovers so I could use the headline “Bengals Bungle, But They Don’t Fall Down,” but some things were never meant to be. This game, the most boring of the playoffs so far, was a battle of two teams with long histories of playoff underachievement, and their cultures of ineptitude were in full force today. Bad turnovers and bad penalties were the norm this afternoon as Andy Dalton fell to 0-3 in the playoffs in his career. The last time the Bengals won a playoff game was the year I was born. Boomer Esiason was their quarterback, and not sitting behind a desk at the CBS studios on The NFL Today. By NFL standards, that’s ancient history.
Andy Dalton took the moments in the game where Andrew Luck played his best yesterday, and turned in one of his worst performances of the year. It was Cincy’s first home loss of the season, and the last. The turning point of the game, much like the Colts/Chiefs game yesterday, was a fumble near the goal line, but Dalton and the Bengals were not as fortunate as the man named Luck with the horseshoe on his helmet. The turnover near the end of the 1st half took the wind out of the Bengals’ sails and Dalton was not as confident after that. The normally mild mannered Phil Simms was not afraid to display his frustration with the young QB in this game. It’s another early playoff exit for Marvin Lewis, who has coached in the same city longer than any other current NFL head coach not named Bill Belichick, but has never won a playoff game. With most other franchises, a coach does not keep their job that long without winning anything. Questions about Lewis and Dalton will be asked until they can prove otherwise, but it will be another long winter and spring for the Bengals and their fans, especially with the possibility of offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer leaving for head coaching opportunities of their own elsewhere.
To be fair, the San Diego Chargers were not expected to be that good this year. Mike McCoy is a first year head coach, Philip Rivers has not been in the playoffs in a few years, and they got off to a slow start. For the past month, they played every game like it was the playoffs because it was necessary for survival. The made it in after an overtime win against Kansas City last week, and went into Cincy with nothing to lose. Philip Rivers played well. So did former Patriots running back Danny Woodhead. The defense came up with some timely turnovers, and now they get to go into Denver and face the division rival Broncos for a third and final time this season. The Chargers are heading in the right direction long term, and are a tough out for whoever they face in the short term. The Broncos and Chargers split the regular season series, but next weeks game is for a chance to play in the AFC Championship Game. This game solidifies the playoff picture in the AFC for next week. The Chargers will go to Denver and Andrew Luck’s Indianapolis Colts travel to New England to take on the Patriots.