The Los Angeles Chargers outlasted the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21 on Sunday at ROKiT Field at StubHub Center, achieving the franchise’s first double-digit-win season since 2009.
The Chargers are 10-3 with an AFC West showdown game Thursday at Kansas City, which leads the division with an 11-2 record.
“It was a tough win. Guys showed grit,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said of the win over Cincinnati. “They showed good mental toughness…. (Cincinnati) was dangerous, and we got out of here with a win today. I’m thankful for that.”
With 1:50 remaining in the game, the Bengals attempted a game-tying, two-point conversion after a one-yard touchdown run by running back Joe Mixon. Defensive tackle Darius Philon sacked quarterback Jeff Driskel to keep the Chargers ahead 23-21.
Los Angeles rookie kicker Michael Badgley, who converted the game-winning 29-yard field goal at Pittsburgh last week, made four field goals including a 59-yarder on Sunday. The 59-yarder is the longest in franchise history.
He capped the scoring making a 45-yard field goal with 49 seconds left.
“You’ve got to go out there with that kind of confidence,” Badgley said. “If you’re going out there thinking you’re going to miss it, you probably shouldn’t be kicking it.”
Running back Austin Ekeler had 94 total yards and a touchdown while wide receiver Keenan Allen tallied five catches for 78 yards and a touchdown — his fifth in as many games.
Quarterback Philip Rivers finished the game 19 of 29 for 220 yards and a touchdown. Defensive end Joey Bosa made six tackles with a sack — his fourth of the season. Rookie safety Derwin James had seven tackles.
Los Angeles opened the game with a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that included various plays, including a 5-yard run by Rivers. After rushes of 15 and 18 yards by Ekeler — and a 19-yard catch by wide receiver Mike Williams — Rivers found Allen for a 14-yard touchdown reception to give Los Angeles an early 7-0 lead.
The Chargers answered a 47-yard field goal by Cincinnati kicker Randy Bullock with another touchdown. A 13-play, 85-yard drive ended with a five-yard touchdown rush by Ekeler to put Los Angeles up 14-3 with 14:51 remaining in the half.
Cincinnati’s next two scoring drives would start in Chargers territory.
On the first, Driskel came up inches short on a touchdown rush although he dove to the ground before the end zone and was untouched before extending the ball over the goal line. He said after the game that he was unaware of a rule change instituted this season to help protect players, especially quarterbacks, who dive head first.
The rule led to an overturned call that took a touchdown off the scoreboard.
“I wasn’t giving myself up, obviously,” Driskel said. “That’s in the rulebook and however it’s interpreted, it is what it is. I wasn’t giving myself up, but if that’s how it’s interpreted I’ve got to find a way to get in there some other way.”
Referee John Hussey explained to the pool reporter following the game that the NFL enacted a rule this season to offer protection to players who dive head first in the same manner as when plays are ruled complete when a quarterback slides feet first.
On fourth-and-goal from inside the 1, the Bengals committed a false start penalty and had to settle for a 23-yard Bullock field goal, which cut the Chargers lead to 14-6. Cincinnati failed to convert the two-point conversion pass attempt.
“Bend don’t break,” Chargers linebacker Jatavis Brown said of his team’s defense. “I know you hear it a lot, but that’s kind of what we live by; bend don’t break. We don’t want to bend, but if it happens, we just don’t break.”
With 10 seconds remaining in the half, the Chargers used a pair of 11-yard receptions and a five-yard offsides penalty to set up Badgley’s 59-yard field goal attempt, which was good. Los Angeles led 17-12 at halftime.
The only scores for Los Angeles in the second half were three Badgley field goals (31, 32 and 45 yards).