SAN DIEGO – It wasn’t a double digit lead that the Chargers needed to protect going into the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday – it was only 3-points – one score.For a team plagued by the inability to finish a game (something that head coach Norv Turner has readily admitted to in the past three games) a one score lead hardly seemed safe for a team that is also struggling to find its first win since Nov. 1.
And so after scoring 13 points in the first half, an offense not able to score at all in the second half and a fatiguing defense, the Chargers gave up the lead and lost the game 20-13 at Qualcomm Stadium.
The fans, sparse in attendance, were impatient from the start, booing at missed plays, missed opportunities, some even booing the introduction of quarterback Philip Rivers. “I heard the boos occasionally throughout the game,” Rivers said, regarding his throwing away of the ball during broken plays. “If you throw a ball away here, you get booed, so it’s tough. A throwaway is better than an interception. I’d hate to hear what those are.”
On asked if the crowd’s booing him at the beginning of the game was just a part of the business, Rivers, seeming somewhat dumbfounded, said: “I reckon. I don’t know; I’m kind of finding out.”
As for the game plan, Turner expressed concern over the Bengals making a big play in the passing game, the Bengals’ pass rush and their ability to make big returns in the kicking game.
It turned out, the one big play the Bengals were able to make was a 41-yard run by half back BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the second quarter that would eventually lead to a Mike Nugent field goal to tie the game 10-10 before the end of the first half.
Turner described that play as “probably the worst play we had defensively.”
Offensively, Turner said they can’t run the ball right now. Running back Ryan Mathews was called upon nine times during the game, rushing for 26 yards. Rivers ran the ball twice for 20 yards.
“The offensive line is not what we want from a protection standpoint, but they fought awfully hard and gave us a lot of the time, opportunities to make some plays,” Turner said.
With the offense not being able to run the ball, Turner said it puts a burden on the offensive line for protection and on Philip. “When we handle it, I thought we made some plays and moved the ball. Obviously, we’re not capable of making enough plays to score enough points to win right now.”
During the game, Rivers completed 26 of his 48 passes for 280 yards, and threw one interception with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter as he tried to lead the offense to score a touchdown that could have tied the game.
Corey Lynch, who led the team with 8 tackles and had an interception on the day called the loss and the team’s struggles “heartbreaking.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Lynch said. “I’ve never been a part of something this heartbreaking before. No one’s slacking off; everyone’s fighting to the very end. I don’t know what to say.” The Chargers will resume practice Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The team, at 4-8, isn’t playing for a playoff spot. For tight end Randy McMichael, he said they are playing for each other. “We play for the organization and the guy next to us and his family,” he said. “We play for the head coach. It’s just very disappointing. We’re heartbroken right now.”
Jeromey Clary – knee
Seyi Ajirotutu – hand
Corey Lynch – quad
Mike Harris – ankle
David Moulk – thumb