ReFo: Bengals @ Chargers, Week 13
When the San Diego Chargers started their march towards the Cincinnati Bengals’ goal line — knowing only a touchdown would do — there was an air of inevitably about it. Could they get close? Sure. Would they get the ball in the end zone? Unlikely.
So it proved, as the miserable season for San Diego continued. They look, on the offensive side of the ball, like a team that is ready for the offseason, and nobody sums that up more than their quarterback Philip Rivers. We’ll get to him later, but he looks like he’s used to dealing with better, and the ready-made excuses for the Chargers’ failings are not bringing out the best in him.
Let’s not forget that the Bengals picked up a fourth consecutive win and are right in the race for a wild card spot. At times they look dangerous, and at others you’re left to wonder if Andy Dalton can get the job done. But with that defense who knows what it is possible?
Cincinnati – Three Performances of Note
Dunlap Steals the Show
With Geno Atkins (+4.4) taking a half to get going, the Bengals needed someone else on their defensive line to step forward. That man was Carlos Dunlap (+5.1) who took full advantage of the fact that Kevin Haslam was forced to come in for Jeromey Clary after just two plays. Picking on a guy with just four career snaps to his name, Dunlap walked away with two sacks (both with fumbles) and five more hurries… as well as the fashionable batted pass that all the kids are doing these days. Maybe this was the game Dunlap needed to spark his season into life, given how he’s struggled to reach the heights of years gone by. Time will tell, but he’ll be happy with his impact in this one.
In this era where all that matters are quarterback wins, it’s easy to ignore the red flags when a guy makes more than his share of errors. Sure the Bengals won, but would you be happy with Dalton (-0.9)? Now it wasn’t as bad as the guy facing him, but it wasn’t pretty. His pick-six was a horrible decision, and while he was unlucky to have a dropped pass turn into a pick, that was karmic for the once again horrible choice to test how the hands of Melvin Ingram and coverage skills of Andrew Hawkins.
There were a selection of nice throws but the old problems remain and better teams than San Diego will expose them. He’s struggling under pressure, completing just one of nine passes here. He’s played better and will play better, but this is the business end of the season. Games like this won’t go unnoticed forever.
Well that was some performance from Andre Smith (+7.0). He gave up just the solitary pressure, but it was his work in the run game that really stood out. It started early on the Bengals’ second offensive play where he moved Vaugh Martin 2 yards off the line of scrimmage ,then drove him away from the play. From there he had joy getting to the second level against the Chargers linebackers, sealing them off with ease. It wasn’t flashy but it was the kind of performance you expect from a first-round pick. It’s the high point on a year that has got better and better.
San Diego – Three Performances of Note
Rivers Running Out of Time?
How bad do you have to be playing when the camera takes not one, but two long looks at Charlie Whitehurst? This performance was worse than the statsheet would let on for Rivers (-6.1) who is playing with the kind of fear I don’t recall seeing in him even in the ‘Dombrowski Days’. Feeling phantom pressure, Rivers is making a tough job harder for his offensive line and, what’s worse, his accuracy has gone with it.
Guilty of numerous overthrows (I counted nine) Rivers’ final play of the game encapsulated what has become of this year. With the game on the line he zeroed in on Malcom Floyd who wans’t just perfectly covered by Terence Newman, but also had safety help over the top. The ball was forced, underthrown, and the manner in which he walked off suggested he couldn’t wait for this year to end.
Unfortunately performances like this, where he went 5 of 18 on passes under pressure, raise some important questions. In 2010 Rivers was one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but this is now two years where he has disappointed. Is he the same player he was? Can they get the weapons and protection for him to succeed?
The Invisible Man
Rivers isn’t the only longtime Charger who is starting to have questions asked about him. Shaun Phillips (-4.2) is one of the few remaining guys from an era where the Chargers were a dominant football team. Unfortunately, his inability to generate pressure is becoming a trend with the two he managed in this game being unblocked and in pursuit when Andy Dalton left the pocket. It’s too often the case that Phillips doesn’t get at tackles and with his run defense hardly setting the world on fire, does he need to start worrying about his job?
It may seem harsh in a game they lost by only 6 points, but finding a positive would do a disservice to the situation the Chargers are in right now. Instead, I’m going to ponder how they found themselves in a situation where they’re starting an undrafted rookie free agent tackle?
I don’t blame Michael Harris (-3.6) for being out of his depth. What do you expect from him? It’s not fun for Chargers fans to watch Michael Johnson bowl him over, and it can’t be much fun for him. And I’ve made this point before, but you must surely know that Jared Gaither has chronic back issues. It’s not like this issue is knew to San Diego after they had to deal with Brandyn Dombrowski as the backup to Marcus McNeil. So how do you find yourself in this situation? It’s unfathomable and it’s pretty much broke Philip Rivers for the year, with him having no faith in his offensive line.
Throw in that you had to put a guy with four career snaps on the field at right tackle and what do you expect? The Chargers haven’t built any real contingency for their offensive line and it shows up on a weekly basis.
– The Bengals missed three tackles, with two of them from Vontaze Burflict.
– The two quarterbacks combined to throw 10 balls away.
– Interestingly, 54.3% of Philip Rivers yardage came after the catch.
It would be hard to go anywhere but Carlos Dunlap here.
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