Chargers defense fuels first victory of the season against the Bengals
The game came down to a 1st and goal for the Cincinnati Bengals. Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow found his pro bowl receiver A.J. Green for the game-winning touchdown, but he had pushed off Casey Hayward which was called as a penalty.
Bengals kicker Reggie Bullock came in for the game-tying 31-yard field goal, but Randy Bullock got hurt as he kicked it and missed.
"It was a relief, man," explained defensive end Melvin Ingram. "It is hard to get wins in this league, so when you go out and get a victory through all we have been through, it is big. When he kicked it wide, it was a relief."
The Chargers (1-0) came away with the 16-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals (0-1).
"Ball games are hard to win in this league," said head coach Anthony Lynn. "I think it is a good thing when you can win under these circumstances, but there were several times we could have closed this game out. I feel like we didn't have that killer instinct to get that done, but I tip my hat off to the guys they played hard. They fought. They never gave up."
The defense was the story in the first half. On the second drive for the Bengals, Burrow dropped back, which was met with pressure and eventually a Jerry Tillery sack. On the next play, Burrow throws a screen to receiver John Ross III but was tackled for only a two-yard gain by Tillery.
"I saw Jerry (Tillery) grow up right before my eyes," said defensive end Melvin Ingram. "It was great thing, man. Because Jerry has been working so hard in camp. So, to see him be rewarded for his hard work, it was dope. I think the sky's the limit for him. He is only going to get better."
A couple of drives later, Burrow got his team down to the 23-yard line. On second down, Burrow had an empty set; he snapped the ball, took off running, waited for his guard to make a block on safety Rayshawn Jenkins, and took off for his first career rushing touchdown.
"I think he had a great performance," said Ingram about the young quarterback. "I think he showed why he was the number one overall pick. I think he came out and made poised plays. I think that is what surprised me is that he was poised. He was leading those guys. I think he definitely has a bright future."
On the next drive, the defense stepped up yet again. Uchenna Nwosu sacked burrow on first down. Then two plays later, Burrow was taken down by Joey Bosa. The former Ohio State Buckeye had a big game constantly pressuring the Burrow.
It was an ugly game. The Bolts offense was able to gain 362 yards but only came away with 16 points.
"Of course, early on, we didn't complete some third downs, and that hurts team morale, and it hurts offensive momentum," explained quarterback Tyrod Taylor. "We were still moving the ball. Some of the third downs we were third and long a couple of times. You want to stay in third and manageable. We got out of that early in the game."
The next offensive drive for the Chargers, Taylor woke up the offense when he threw up a pass to receiver Mike Williams, and he came down with the 36-yard reception. That drive ended with a Michael Badgley field goal.
The Bolts received the ball on their own 14 with 33 seconds left on the clock right before the half. They didn't kneel it. Taylor threw a nice pass to a wide-open Hunter Henry, who took off 33-yards to get his team some points. Badgley finished that drive with a 43yard field goal and went into halftime down 7-6.
"Yeah, obviously, as you guys saw, we kind of came out slow," explained Henry. "We got a few plays rolling, and we just couldn't get it, you know, get a drive going. And then finally, it was late into the first half, we were able to connect plays. The run kind of set up the pass a little bit. Obviously, we have a lot to improve on, offensively, I mean."
The offense gained momentum right away when rookie running back Joshua Kelley took a third and one hand off for 26 yards in the second half. That jump run jump-started the UCLA product.
"You know for me just getting that first hit those first couple carries, man, I think that really helped me, you know," said the rookie running back. "Once I started getting a feel for it because offensive line, they did a heck of a job the whole game those guys were blocking their tails off. They were absolutely amazing."
Going into the fourth quarter, Kelley got his number called on the five-yard line, making it count by punching it into the end zone. This tied things up and gave the offense some mojo.
"Today, we needed that touchdown," explained Taylor. "It came after a long drive, and to be able to finish it off with the touchdown was definitely big for us and a momentum swing for us."
On the next drive, the defense stepped up yet again when linebacker Denzel Perryman put his helmet into running back Joe Mixon to cause a fumble picked up by teammate and former Bengal Nick Vigil.
"Yeah, it was pretty cool, you know, for four years and a lot of good buddies on the team still," said Vigil. "You know, it was awesome to get a couple turnovers and win the game.
The Bolts got their first lead of the game after a Badgley 22-yard field goal.
Then the defense stepped up yet again. Burrow drove the offense up to the Chargers 23-yard line. He snapped the ball and was pressured to move to his left; he shoveled it right into Melvin Ingram's hands.
"It was just reading the play and trying to make a play for the team," said Ingram.
Bullock ended up missing the field goal and the Bolts head home with a winning record. They face the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
Nuts N’ Bolts
· Linebacker Drue Tranquill hurt his ankle in the first half and Lynn said after the game they will be without him for some time.
· Running back Justin Jackson left the game with a quad injury and did not return.
· Right guard Trai Turner (knee) and center Mike Pouncey (hip) missed the game with injuries.
· Tyree St. Louis made the start at guard with Turner out.
· Rookie linebacker Kenneth Murray finished with 8 tackles.