As Andy Dalton took a run up the middle, and the football broke the goal-line plane, the Cincinnati Bengals finally scored the touchdown that had eluded them the entire second half.
Up until that point, the skies had looked very cloudy for Cincinnati fans. After the offensive momentum for both teams faded at half-time, the latter thirty minutes ultimately became a defensive contest. One in which the entire game became jockeying for field position.
The Bengals received first, but Brandon Tate bobbled the football on the return. He managed to get it out to just the 9 yard-line. That certainly didn’t stop Cincinnati from moving the ball 91 yards on sixteen plays, their longest drive of the season.
The resulting touchdown didn’t secure the lead for long. After getting the ball a second time, Dalton looked for A. J. Green on a quick slant. The only problem was that a Chargers player was sitting on it for an ensuing pick-six.
The offense continued, and the score shifted to a 10-all tie. That was before Philip Rivers led the San Diego offense to inside the Cincinnati 5 yard-line, for a short field goal before half-time.
The score stayed 13-10 until just over four minutes to play in the fourth quarter. On the aforementioned run by Dalton, the Bengals took a 17-13 lead.
Carlos Dunlap then executed the play that ended up saving the Bengals. After getting to Philip Rivers on a pass play, he swatted the ball out of Rivers’ hands, and promptly fell on top of it for an important change of possession.
The Chargers limited the Bengals to a field goal, and then the late-game drama unfolded.
Rivers led the Chargers down the field on several different pass plays to his receivers over the middle. By the two-minute warning, they had crossed into Cincinnati territory, and the stadium noise had begun to increase. Skip forward a few plays and the Bengals defense faced an opposing first-and-ten on their own 17 yard-line.
With the goal-line at their backs, the Bengals thwarted three straight pass attempts to the end zone, setting up a fourth-and-ten to decide the game. Reggie Nelson crossed in front of Rivers’ target and intercepted the football in the end zone.
With two quick kneels by quarterback Andy Dalton, the Bengals moved to 7-5 on the season.
Dalton finished the game with 211 yards passing on 25/39 attempts. He threw two interceptions (one on a tipped ball by Marvin Jones), one touchdown, and also ran one in for the late lead.
Benjarvus Green-Ellis had another outstanding showing, rushing for 118 yards on 25 attempts. He even broke out into the secondary for a 41-yard burst on the first Bengals drive.
The game marked the Law Firm’s third straight game of over 100 yards on the ground, something the Bengals haven’t done in quite some time.
The ground game has come at the perfect time for the Bengals, as Andy Dalton has welcomed the newfound balance in the offense. It’s played a key role in the current four-game winning streak.
The only problem with the outcomes this Sunday were that not only did the Indianapolis Colts make a comeback win over the Detroit Lions, but the Baltimore Ravens somehow found a way to lose against the disheveled Pittsburgh Steelers, 23-20.
For now, the Bengals remain behind the Steelers for the second AFC Wild-card, but a win definitely keeps them in the race.
Next up, Cincinnati will play against the Dallas Cowboys in another must-win game in front of a sold-out Paul Brown Stadium.