Chargers vs. Bengals: Live Game Grades and Analysis for San Diego

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2014

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 05:  Defensive back Jahleel Addae #37 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates after recovering a fumble against the Cincinnati Bengals during a Wild Card Playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 5, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Thanks to some efficient offense and a stifling defense, the San Diego Chargers managed to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in today's AFC Wild Card showdown.


Score: San Diego 27, Cincinnati 10

San Diego Chargers Game Grades
Position UnitFirst-Half GradeFinal Grade
Pass OffenseC-B
Run OffenseBA
Pass DefenseC-B
Run DefenseC+C
Special TeamsBA
vs. Bengals Wild Card Round


Game Analysis for the San Diego Chargers

Pass Offense: Quarterback Philip Rivers played very conservatively in the first half, but came out in attack mode in the second. He was extremely careful and accurate with his throws throughout the game. Rivers finished 12-of-16 for an efficient 128 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

Run Offense: Considering the Bengals fielded the league’s fifth-ranked run defense during the regular season, San Diego’s ability to move the ball on the ground has to be seen as a major victory. A ground-centered attack allowed the Chargers to avoid mistakes early in the game and to chew up the clock late when playing with the lead. Veteran Ronnie Brown put the game away with a 58-yard fourth-quarter touchdown. Brown led the team with 77 yards on eight carries, but Danny Woodhead and Ryan Mathews did most of the heavy lifting. The two combined for 106 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.

Pass Defense: This game brought a mixed bag from the San Diego pass defense. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton was allowed to rack up yards through the air, but he was also forced into making a number of critical mistakes. Dalton finished the game 29-of-51 for 334 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. 

Run Defense: San Diego gave up some yardage on the ground, but for the most part prevented large game-altering gains. An unforced fumble on a Dalton scramble helped to turn things around in the second half. Rookie Giovani Bernard led the Bengals with 45 yards rushing on 12 carries. BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran eight times for 42 yards, while Dalton added 26 yards from the quarterback position.

Special Teams: The members of the San Diego special teams unit were the unsung heroes of this contest. Punter Mike Scifres consistently changed the field, averaging 42 yards per punt. Kicker Nick Novak was perfect on his two field-goal attempts and the Chargers held return specialist Brandon Tate to just two yards per punt return.

Coaching: Defensive coordinator John Pagano deserves a ton of credit for his ability to derail the Bengals’ usually efficient home-field offense. Limiting the production of star wideout A.J. Green was a major boon to the defense, which consistently found ways to fluster Dalton and the rest of the aerial attack. Head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt made some critical halftime adjustments, which helped deliver the win. After a conservative first half, the Chargers played more aggressively over the final two quarters, taking advantage of the turnovers created by the defense.

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 05:  Wide receiver Eddie Royal #11 of the San Diego Chargers runs with the ball as defensive end Michael Johnson #93 of the Cincinnati Bengals defends during a Wild Card Playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 5, 2014 in Cin
Rob Carr/Getty Images


First-Half Analysis for the San Diego Chargers

Pass Offense: Rivers had difficulty finding open wide receivers early in this game, but had success when throwing to his backfield outlets. While Rivers avoided game-altering mistakes in the first half, he may need to take some chances in the second half in order to force Cincinnati to respect the deep passing game. Rivers finished the half 5-of-6 for 48 yards with no touchdowns and no turnovers.

Run Offense: San Diego ran the ball surprisingly well against Cincinnati’s fifth-ranked run defense in the first half. Mathews led the team with 49 yards on 12 carries, while Woodhead and Brown combined for 25 yards on five rushing attempts. Rivers scrambled twice for a total of four yards.

Pass Defense: The Chargers did a nice job of limiting Dalton to short and medium pass plays for most of the half. Unfortunately, Dalton’s lone long completion, a 49-yarder to Marvin Jones, put the Bengals up in scoring position just before halftime. A forced fumble took away that opportunity, though. Dalton finished the half 12-of-17 for 164 yards and a touchdown.

Run Defense: San Diego had some trouble slowing the Bengals rushing attack at times in the first half, though the Chargers did manage to prevent excessive gains. Overall, holding the Bengals to less than five yards per carry can be seen as a mild success. Green-Ellis led the Bengals with 27 yards on six carries, while Bernard gained 26 yards of his own on seven rushing attempts. Dalton added nine yards rushing from the quarterback position.

Special Teams: Aside from allowing a 33-yard kick return in the second quarter, the San Diego special teams unit played a solid first half of football. Scifres averaged 47 yards per punt, while Novak delivered on his only extra-point attempt.

Coaching: Credit Pagano for finding a way to limit star wideout A.J. Green for the vast majority of the first half. Cincinnati had other ways to move the football on offense, but taking away Green has limited the Bengals’ scoring opportunities to this point. Offensively, the Chargers relied on a conservative short-passing attack, which has helped to avoid big mistakes, but has taken away San Diego’s big-play capabilities.



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