It’s hard to transcribe how wild that game was.
The Cincinnati Bengals took another big loss at home, falling 41-22 to the Los Angeles Chargers. The final score matched the energy from the beginning of the game, when nothing was going Cincinnati’s way, but the Bengals ended up with a legitimate chance to not just win, but bury the Chargers. A couple of bad turnovers erased that from happening.
Now 7-5 on the year, the Bengals have a giveaway problem, and will likely be dealing with more injuries in the coming days. Here are our winners and losers from Sunday’s crazy game.
While most of the Bengals’ offense were making critical mistakes, Higgins was continuing his hot streak. His 29-touchdown reception over two defenders in the second quarter started the team’s 22-0 run that made the game competitive. In the fourth quarter, Higgins was horse-collar tackled and injured his foot in the process, but he stayed in the game and made a few more plays with the ball in his hands. He finished with nine receptions, 138 yards and his aforementioned score.
Eli Apple and Mike Hilton
It looked as though the Chargers were going to pass all over the Bengals’ secondary, but they struggled to throw against an ascending Apple, who made multiple plays on the ball and maintained tight coverage. Hilton also had a good game in coverage and forced a fumble on Austin Ekeler.
Vernon Hargreaves III
Hargreaves made his Bengals debut and got in on the turnover party as well. He was responsible for forcing Ekeler’s first fumble of the day, in which Jessie Bates returned for 46 yards.
Much of the Bengals’ mid-game resurgence was due to the defensive line impacting Justin Herbert. They forced errant throws from the star quarterback and finished a handful of their pressures, including sacks from Cam Sample and Trey Hendrickson. They ended up taking down Herbert four times and had their way against a struggling Chargers’ o-line.
No, he did not come out on top over his peer Herbert, but the guy showed his true colors in the form of grit. Burrow’s right pinky became a subplot of this game and it appeared as if it would affect him for the second half of the game. He managed to play through it and turned in a solid outing before forcing an end zone throw that resulted in an interception.
It seemed like the offense let down their quarterback in this one, and his injury only accentuates that feeling.
The preseason was months ago, but the drops have come back for Chase. He was credited with two of them Sunday, with one being more impactful than the other. Joe Burrow threw a perfect deep ball to his former LSU teammate and Chase bobbled it long enough for Michael Davis to snag it out of the air. Had Chase secured it, he would’ve sprinted into the end zone for sure. Who knows how much different the game would’ve been. He would end up with 52 yards on five receptions.
Staying on the topic of costly turnovers, none was greater than Mixon’s fourth-quarter fumble. Just when the Bengals’ running back was heating up, he coughed the ball up for just the second time all year and the Chargers for a touchdown—their first points since the beginning of the second quarter. The Chargers were the last team to recover a Mixon fumble when they played last year.
This felt like the true turning point of the game. The Bengals were approaching field goal range down 24-22, and in a single play, they were down 31-22. Mixon had been playing so well lately, but the Chargers were determined to stopping him, and they were largely successful. He gained just 54 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
No defender was torched more during the Chargers’ 24-0 start than Bates. The veteran free safety was fooled by play action that left Keenan Allen wide open for second touchdown of the first quarter. Later in the first half, he lost the ball in the end zone as Jaylen Guyton climbed through his pass interference for the game’s third touchdown. Bates had a few good moments to close the day out, but his early mistakes were costly.
Isaiah Prince and Trey Hill
These two were called to start due to injuries, and they did indeed look like backups. They combined for three first-half penalties and were ineffective at generating movement in the run game.
In general, the Bengals’ o-line underwhelmed considering Joey Bosa barely played before suffering a head injury, The sooner Riley Reiff and Trey Hopkins return, the better.
The Bengals’ did have their starter at left tackle, but he did not play well. He began with allowing a strip-sack on Burrow on the first drive and his day didn’t get much better, allowing pressure from Uchenna Nwosu on several occasions.
Special teams units
Darrin Simmons has not been a happy camper lately. His usually strong special teams units have been making more mistakes of late. This week they allowed a long kickoff return and Stanley Morgan was flagged for not getting back onto the field quick enough.
Zac Taylor and other leaders
For the second time this season, the Bengals have suffered let-downs following dominant divisional wins. That falls on leadership, and thus the head coach. Taylor consistently says the right things and seems to keep a level head, but how do you explain these sloppy games following impressive performances? Taylor and his staff still need to learn how to sustain success, as this franchise hasn’t won three-straight games in six years.