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Cincinnati has now lost seven of its last eight games going into the home finale against Oakland on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
Here’s how we graded the team in our Week 14 report card:
The Good: The Bengals opened their first drive with rushes on five of the first six plays to establish the run, and that got them to the Chargers’ 35-yard line before they ended up kicking a field goal. Joe Mixon finally got the touches he has been looking for, finishing with 111 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries.
The Bad: Giovani Bernard still hasn’t been much of a factor in the running game, as he rushed three times for seven yards, and Jeff Driskel once again was limited with just two scrambles. The Bengals had three tackles for loss and were stopped on a fourth-and-1.
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Key Play: On third-and-goal from the 1, Jeff Driskel scrambled for a touchdown in the second quarter, but the replay showed he was down before crossing the goal line. A rule change this year caused some confusion on the call but referee John Hussey explained it afterward, saying a quarterback is given protection from a fumble once he gives himself up with a slide or dive, so as soon as his knee hit the ground that is where the play is dead. The next play, Alex Redmond was penalized for a false start , and the Bengals ended up having to kick the field goal to cut the deficit to 14-6.
The Good: Driskel continued to find success with short passes. He had back-to-back completions on the Bengals’ final drive of the first half to cut a deficit to 14-12 on a 6-yard grab by John Ross. Ross now has four touchdowns in the last five games since returning from a groin injury, and he has six touchdowns total on just 18 catches.
The Bad: The short passes led to just 170 yards passing for Driskel, who completed just two deep passes and was sacked three times. Mixon was the team’s most utilized receiver Sunday with five catches for 27 yards. Tyler Boyd had just three catches for 57 yards.
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Key Play: After Driskel’s long pass of 24 yards to C.J. Uzomah took the Bengals to the Chargers’ 37 in the third quarter, he couldn’t get any more completions to finish the drive and after a Billy Price false start, they ended up punting. That was a second straight drive they didn’t get points on, and their rally effort fell short in the fourth quarter.
The Good: Cincinnati limited the Chargers to 85 yards on 25 carries (3.4 yards per carry), as Austin Ekeler had just 66 yards on 15 rushes.
The Bad: The Chargers ran the ball on four of their first five plays, including carries for 18 and 15 yards, to set up their first touchdown and the quick start proved key.
Key Play: Los Angeles converted a fourth-and-1 to extend its first drive of the second half on which it added a field goal for a 20-12 lead with 7:42 left in the third quarter.
The Good: Keenan Allen finished with just five catches for 78 yards. Carlos Dunlap sacked Phillip Rivers on a third-and-1 from the Chargers’ 16 after the two-minute warning in the first half, and the Bengals ended up driving 35 yards and scoring to make it a two-point game. Rivers completed just 19 of 29 passes for 220 yards, which is low for him.
The Bad: Jordan Willis was called for holding on a play when Rivers was sacked, moving the Chargers up five yards and leaving one second left for a 59-yard field goal, which they made to extend their lead to 17-12.
Key Play: The Bengals gave up a 37-yard pass to Keenan Allen on the first play from scrimmage after they had cut the deficit to 20-15 early in the fourth quarter, and the Chargers used up more than four minutes to extend their lead with a field goal that basically sealed the game.
The Good: Randy Bullock was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts, including two over 45 yards.
The Bad: The Bengals almost got through the game without a special teams penalty until the final two minutes on an onside kick attempt where Clayton Fejedelem was called for an illegal block and Bullock actually was called for an illegal touch kick, which was declined. The Chargers got the ball at the Cincinnati 34 and sealed the game with a fourth field goal.
Key Play: Desmond King returned a kick 35 yards to put the Chargers in good field position with just 20 seconds left in the first half, and they were able to get a field goal before halftime.
The Good: The Bengals finally were able to establish the run and maintain it with fewer penalties putting them behind the sticks. The defense was better prepared, limiting Rivers to his second lowest passing total this season and just one touchdown.
The Bad: Cincinnati wasn’t able to take advantage of a number of opportunities that could have changed the outcome. Los Angeles wasn’t at its best and the Bengals still couldn’t figure out how to win. The Bengals went for two in the first half and ended up having to try again in the second half, failing both times.
Key Play: Cincinnati went for it on fourth-and-1 from its own 35 on the first drive of the second half, and Mixon was stopped at the line of scrimmage, allowing the Chargers a short field to extend their lead to 20-12 with a field goal.