Week 13 of the NFL season has come to an end, and the week had a number of surprises. The biggest surprise was the Detroit Lions. After a miserable winless start to the season, the Lions pulled out their first win on Sunday! They defeated the Minnesota Vikings in a thriller, winning 29-27. Just for that Sunday, the Lions became America’s Team (except for Vikings fans, of course). Aside from the Lions, the Pittsburgh Steelers pulled off a major upset on the AFC-favorites, the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers capitalized on a plethora of Ravens mistakes in order to steal the win away. The Los Angeles Chargers traveled to the city of Cincinnati in order to take on the Bengals. The Bengals were favored in this game, but the Chargers were determined to prove that they have what it takes. These are the Chargers-Bengals takeaways.
Justin Herbert is Still THAT Guy
In case there were somehow still doubts around Justin Herbert, let’s just make it clear: Herbert is a superstar. Herbert had a fantastic performance in Cincy on Sunday. Herbert finished the day 26/35 (74%) with 317 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The battle between Herbert and Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was fierce, but Burrow’s pinky injury was enough to give Herbert an insurmountable edge in the battle. Hats off to Burrow though, who had a respectable performance in spite of his injury. Burrow completed 24/40 passes (60%) for 300 yards, a touchdown, a fumble, and two interceptions. Keep in mind that while that stat-line may look unimpressive, Burrow had an injured pinky finger and was playing against one of the top pass defenses in the entire league. Anyway, back to Herbert. Herbert’s passes were on point on Sunday, completely picking apart the talented Bengals secondary. One of the CBS telecasters even compared Herbert’s arm to a Howitzer cannon, and he showed people why against the Bengals.
The Chargers’ Run Defense Stepped Up
After a miserable performance in Denver last week, the Chargers’ defense next faced one of the best running backs in the NFL. The Bengals’ Joe Mixon was poised for a huge day against the wet-napkin Chargers’ defense. However, this squad seemed quite prepared for Mixon on Sunday. Mixon finished the day with a total of 54 yards on 19 carries, a touchdown, and a fumble. That’s 2.8 yards per carry. Mixon’s fumble may have been his own fault, but that fumble turned into a scoop-n-score, which enabled the Chargers to run away with the game. If the Chargers play at this level for the rest of the season, they will be a legitimate contender to run away with the AFC West title.
Both Sides Struggled to Protect the Ball
Seven. That’s the number of turnovers committed by both the Bengals and Chargers in this matchup. The Chargers had two fumbles and an interception, while the Bengals had two fumbles and two interceptions. Chargers running back Austin Ekeler struggled against the Bengals, being responsible for both fumbles for the Chargers (though one of his fumbles should have been ruled an incompletion). Meanwhile, Mixon and Burrow each had a fumble, with Mixon’s fumble being the catalyst for the Chargers running away with the win. Combine that with Herbert’s interception (which was actually a ridiculous play by Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie) and Burrow’s pair of interceptions, and what’s left is an inexcusably sloppy game.
Chargers Need to Stop Taking Mid-Game Breaks
The Chargers opened the game with guns blazing, going up 24-0 by the early second quarter. At this point, Bengals fans in the stadium were eerily silent, while Chargers fans were certainly feeling themselves. However, the Chargers gotta Charger, right? The Chargers followed that ridiculous start by allowing 22 unanswered points, with the Chargers leading 24-22 going into the fourth quarter. The Chargers during the middle quarters were absent on the field. The offense was uninspired, while the defense played like they couldn’t even stop a high school offense if they tried. No disrespect to the Bengals, but the Chargers seemed to turn off the kill switch. However, that aforementioned Mixon fumble leading to a scoop-n-score saved the Chargers. That touchdown brought the score to 31-22 Chargers, and the team finally started playing like a legitimate NFL team again. The Chargers need to stop taking their foot off the brakes if they want to actually compete in the playoffs against truly great teams.
This game was an absolute blast to witness in person. After last week’s miserable performance in Denver, it was a real concern that the Chargers would get curb stomped by the Bengals. However, the Chargers seemed to finally get their act together and played like they did to open the season. If the Chargers can stop selling games in the middle of the game, there will be few teams in the NFL that can match up to them. That’s just how talented this team actually is.
The Bengals are certainly a team to watch out for too. Sure, the Chargers handled business against them, but a fully healthy Bengals team can hold their own against anyone now. Their defense is far improved from recent years, and Burrow is a legitimate superstar not unlike Herbert. These were the Chargers-Bengals takeaways.