The Bengals trailed 24-0, then brought it to within a two-point conversion to tie it.
The Chargers scored 24 unanswered points to open the game. Then the Bengals scored 22 unanswered in the middle. The Chargers closed it out with another 17 unanswered.
For once, it doesn’t seem like the Bengals’ fault that they lost. It seems like some dark, sinister force decided to meddle with the outcome of football games and chose the Bengals’ as its victim.
Nonetheless, the Bengals had a 17-0 deficit before it felt like they even had a possession.
Here’s what we learned from the Bengals’ weird loss to the Chargers.
Joe Burrow is not a normal human being
Joe Burrow injured his pinky finger on his throwing hand, and still nearly mounted a comeback. His finger was hurt to the point of visible swelling, and he still slung the ball for 300 yards.
For most of the game, the offense fell apart around him. Ja’Marr Chase bobbled a perfect pass that turned into an interception. Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins sought medical attention for something or other during the game. Joe Mixon fumbled for the first time in over 300 carries. Trey Hill and Isaiah Prince experience growing pains in their first career starts on the offensive line.
The Bengals trailed 24-0 partway through the second quarter, and Burrow—with an injured finger on his throwing hand—led the Bengals to a 22-point run. He scored two touchdowns himself, one passing and one rushing.
Even though Burrow played out of his mind, the offensive couldn’t recover from a pair of costly, and uncharacteristic, turnovers.
A DL other than Trey Hendrickson needs to step up
Trey Hendrickson has been one of the best free agent signings the Bengals have ever made. He’s consistently getting to the passer, which he certainly did against the Chargers.
However, at times this season, Hendrickson has been the only one.
During the Chargers’ first run, Hendrickson got to Justin Herbert, but the quarterback was able to get out of the pocket and throw lasers to his receivers.
When the Bengals’ defense finally forced some punts and some turnovers, the rest of the line was able to keep Herbert in the pocket. Sam Hubbard, B.J. Hill, and Larry Ogunjobi combined for two sacks during the middle of the game
But the pressure bottomed out in the fourth quarter, and the Chargers were able to pull away from the Bengals again.
The depth in the back seven will be key
The Bengals got hit with the worst single-game injury bug they have ever had.
Nearly every significant contributor missed at least a few snaps due to injury.
On defense, Logan Wilson and Chidobe Awuzie were among them.
Yet, the defensive replacements played about as well as possible when the opponent puts up a 41-spot.
Joe Bachie came in for Wilson in the second quarter, being promoted from the practice squad only weeks ago. Bachie tied for the lead in tackles, getting nine alongside Germaine Pratt and Mike Hilton. But Bachie only put in 39 snaps, while Pratt and Hilton had 61 and 57, respectively.
Another surprising depth piece that played a major role was Vernon Hargreaves. He came in for Awuzie to play corner across from Eli Apple. Both Hargreaves and Bachie assisted in one of Austin Ekeler’s fumbles, which Pratt ultimately got the credit for forcing.
The Bengals’ depth is going to be tested as they fight for a playoff spot. This game was not a great start, but not a bad start.