I stated last week that Sunday’s game in San Diego would be a good test of what this Bengals team really is. With the Chargers’ season on the line, Takeo Spikes said before the game that he was going to play like it was a postseason game. It seemed that many of his teammates adopted that attitude, because they gave the Bengals as much as they could handle for much of the game.
During the second quarter, I thought my worst fears had come true. After the opening drive, the Bengals looked flat. There was no spark at all. And I began muttering to inanimate objects about how after three straight blowout wins, the team had gotten full of themselves again and taken a win for granted. Fortunately, if I was right about that, they were eventually able to stiff-arm the doldrums and get going again.
And maybe I was just too quick to blame the Bengals for playing poorly when actually the Chargers’ defense fought hard for much of the game, exposing a front line that might not be quite as good as we thought and forcing the Bengals into mistakes. Three big mistakes by Dalton, Gresham, and Marvin Jones could have been enough to sink the ship… and would have in years past. Seeing the team reverse the negative momentum is a huge step forward in maturity. And a huge step toward going somewhere in the postseason.
Give Marvin credit for making the right adjustments at halftime… something missing during the four straight losses. The defense found its rhythm in the second half after looking rather average in the first half, increasing the pressure on Rivers and forcing him into mistakes of his own. And while the offense didn’t look crisp most of the day (credit the Chargers’ D-line for that), they found a way to do just enough when they needed to.
In the end, it wasn’t the fourth straight dominating performance we wanted to see. But going into what could easily have turned into a trap game in a place where they historically have trouble winning, an ugly win ain’t bad.