Match Report: Bengals 20 Chargers 13

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I must confess, most of what I know of San Diego was learned from watching the movie Anchorman, and the rest of what I know came from a vacation my family took there when I was a teenager who fell in love with TGI Fridays. And, yes, while that might seem a little puzzling to Americans, if you’d ever ordered a sandwich in mid-90s England served on two pieces of plastic white bread around a slice of processed cheese, well, you’d go head over heels for potato skins filled with bacon and fried stuff covered in ranch-dressing too.

Anyway, San Diego seems like an utterly lovely place to live, and frankly I mainly just feel sorry for Philip Rivers, who increasingly has a cast of receivers that haven’t even heard of each other and who nobody owns in fantasy. Perhaps the reason he keeps blowing games in the fourth quarter the past two years is because he can’t stand the sight of head coach Norv Turner’s crumbling face, with its forlorn air of determined confusion. That said, Chargers fans seems to be an unusual combination of disinterested and obnoxious (to be fair, with that weather, how much attention can you pay to a 4-7 team?), and I’m still bitter we lost the “Chris Henry” game in 2009, so there was no shortage of ill-feeling as we took the field.

Any worries about a comedown after the emotional return of Carson Palmer to PBS last week were initially put to bed with a delightful, multi-faceted opening drive capped with Jermaine Gresham’s touchdown. Unfortunately, once Andy Dalton threw a pick-six at the start of the second half, both teams sort of, well, shut down, and an eternity seemed to pass with the score stuck at 13-10 to San Diego. It seemed like a classic way for the Bengals to capsize the season, but fortunately this team is, if nothing else, scrappy, and Andy Dalton scrambled for a score to take the lead, 17-13.

Defensive end Carlos Dunlap has been, somewhat unfairly, overlooked thanks to the brilliance of interior lineman Geno Atkins, but he changed the game for good. As Rivers tried to mount a fourth quarter comeback, Dunlap sacked the Chargers QB, stripped the ball from him, and recovered it himself. The ensuing Mike Nugent field goal left San Diego with just a couple of minutes left and a touchdown needed. Though Rivers made progress up the field, Mike Zimmer’s defense held strong, refusing to allow the opposition to score an offensive touchdown for the second time in three games. Reggie Nelson sealed the deal with an end zone interception, and the Bengals kept up the pace needed to stay in contention for the final playoff spot.

Final Score: Bengals 20 Chargers 13

Man Of The Match: Carlos Dunlap. He created the turnover when it was most needed, especially on a day when the offense was not only unable to get going, but kept turning the ball over themselves, Gresham and rookie Marvin Jones both coughing up turnovers. He finished the day with two sacks, two strips, and one recovered fumble on a day when no other individual really shone, but the team grinded out a win.

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