Another tale of two halves for the Chargers in week two.
This time, San Diego was on the losing end of it, 24-19.
A beautiful 8-play, 78-yard drive to start the second half got the Chargers within one, at 14-13. Philip Rivers hooked up with Stevie Johnson on a quick pass to the outside with Johnson scampering 10 yards for the score. It was Rivers 255th career touchdown pass as a Charger, passing Dan Fouts for the franchise lead.
What ensued after wasn’t pretty for San Diego.
Bengals running back Jeremy Hill fumbled for the second time on Cincinnati’s next drive, but the turnover was followed by kicker Josh Lambo’s first missed field goal of the season, a 47-yarder.
The Bengals added a field goal of their own on the next drive, a 21-yarder from Mike Nugent, who missed a 36-yarder in the first half.
The Chargers punted on their next two drives, both three-and-outs.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton made a day of Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers. He was already burned for two touchdowns in the first half, one by A.J. Green and another by Marvin Jones, before Dalton found tight end Tyler Eifert in the end zone for nine-yards with 8:54 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The hookup made it a two-score game with Cincinnati leading 24-13.
The Chargers would answer with a beautiful 40-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to Malcom Floyd, but San Diego was unable to convert the two-point conversion to make it a one-score game.
The Chargers forced a Bengals punt which left San Diego with 69 seconds, and no timeouts, to score a touchdown. Lacking the second half magic from last week, Rivers (21 of 27 for 241 yards, 2 TDs) was intercepted over the middle by the Bengals Vincent Rey on a pass intended for Malcom Floyd.
The first half could have gone a number of ways.
Despite three total turnovers, two by the Chargers and one by the Bengals, the score remained a pedestrian 14-6 at the half.
The Chargers could have had an opportunity to try and score at the end of the half with about 50 seconds remaining had head coach Mike McCoy called a timeout and forced the Bengals to punt on fourth down. Instead, he didn’t, and the Bengals ran the clock out to end the second quarter.
San Diego had two timeouts remaining.
After forcing the Bengals on a three-and-out to start the game, wide receiver Keenan Allen, filling in for the injured Jacoby Jones, fumbled trying to return the ensuing punt and Cincinnati recovered. Dalton later hit A.J. Green for a 16-yard touchdown.
It began a tough outing for Allen.
After last week’s 15 catch, 166-yard receiving performance, Allen didn’t catch his first pass until about five minutes left in the second quarter. He later dropped a pass on second and 11 that could have given the Chargers a first down just before the two-minute warning. The Chargers were forced to punt after Rivers scrambled for a five-yard gain on third down. Allen finished with just two receptions for 16-yards.
After Green’s score, the Chargers settled for a 40-yard Josh Lambo field goal on the next drive, closing the score to 7-3 midway through the first quarter. The next series, the Bengals joined the turnover game. In a scrum to bring down running back Jeremy Hill, linebacker Donald Butler ripped the ball from Hill’s hand and came up with the forced fumble.
But, the Chargers were no better on the ensuing series. Philip Rivers was sacked by Wallace Gilberry and fumbled, and the Bengals recovered. Like San Diego, the Bengals couldn’t capitalize on the giveaway as kicker Mike Nugent later missed a 36-yard field goal.
The Chargers would settle another Josh Lambo field goal, this one from 32-yards to make it a 7-6 game.
Another big play led to the Bengals next score. Dalton found Marvin Jones for a 45-yard touchdown pass over the middle, beating Brandon Flowers. The Chargers relied heavily on safety help over the top last week against the Lions. On both of Cincinnati’s first-half touchdowns, there was none.
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)