By Dave Thomas
If you’re not sure which San Diego Charger team will show up week in and week out, consider yourself among the large drove of those that root for the Bolts.
In what has turned into a Jekyll and Hyde season for San Diego, the Chargers missed out on an opportunity Sunday to move up in the AFC wild card race, dropping a 17-10 home decision to the AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals. San Diego falls to 5-7 with the loss, moving them one step closer to missing the post-season for the fourth straight year.
Following a thrilling 41-38 win on the road the previous weekend in Kansas City, the Chargers were not able to duplicate the same performance and/or intensity against the Bengals. As a result, the Chargers are still looking up at Baltimore and Miami (both 6-6), with Pittsburgh, New York and Tennessee also at 5-7.
Cincinnati Holds San Diego to 10 Points
After putting up 41 points the previous Sunday against one of the better defenses (Kansas City) in the league, San Diego could not find the offensive touch this Sunday against Cincinnati.
One of San Diego’s biggest crutches this season and the last few years (the running game) was a problem again versus the Bengals. The latter held the Chargers to a mere 91 yards rushing on the day, once again showing that San Diego’s running game is still far from where it needs to be to compete on a regular basis in the NFL.
Defensively, the Bolts held Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton (14-of-23, 190 yards passing, one TD, one interception) to an average day, but it was still enough to get the Bengals over the hump, allowing them to maintain a two-game lead over defending Super Bowl champ Baltimore in the AFC North.
So, where do the Chargers go from here?
Next up is a meeting with Eli Manning and the New York Giants next Sunday (Dec. 8), then a trip to Denver only four days later for a Thursday night edition of the NFL.
While the Chargers have certainly not been eliminated from the AFC playoff race, Sunday’s loss just adds another nail in a coffin that is getting closer and closer to being closed.
OFFENSE GRADE: C
Although Cincinnati’s defense is not shabby by any means (Bengals have allowed second fewest points in AFC behind Kansas City), the Chargers in essence laid an egg on the offensive side of the ball. As noted earlier, rushing for less than 100 yards as a team is a recipe for certain disaster. Ryan Mathews (61 yards rushing on the day) may never establish himself as an elite running back in the league. Yes, the offensive line is still a work in progress due to injuries etc., but the Chargers can’t rely on Philip Rivers to win every game for them. Rivers finished 23-of-37, 252 yards passing, one TD, and one interception. Not horrible numbers, but also not stats that are going to light an opponent on fire. A pair of fumbles (Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates) certainly did not help the cause either.
DEFENSE GRADE: B-
Giving up 17 points in an NFL game should provide you with a decent chance of winning, yet the Chargers were unable to even their record at 6-6. Donald Butler (nine solo tackles) continues to shine week after week on this side of the ball for San Diego. Meanwhile, Eric Weddle (one interception on the day) is the anchor in a secondary that will go against the Manning brothers in its next two games. Even though Eli Manning has not had the MVP type of season that his older brother has put together to date this year, expect the former to test San Diego’s secondary come next Sunday. As a team, the Chargers are allowing nearly 390 total yards a game (Cincinnati finished with 354 yards of total offense on the day).
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.