Sunday, December 26, 2010

Chargers Playoff Hopes Freeze in Cincinnati

The Chargers season effectively ended on Sunday afternoon, with a lifeless performance on a cold, snowy day in Cincinnati.  The Chargers were smacked around, 34-20, to a team who had lost 11 of the last 12 games coming into week 16.

The Chargers first possession foreshadowed what the Chargers were in store for.  After a failed reverse on first down, in which the Chargers lost 19 yards on a fumble, the Chargers were forced to punt.  Trusty punter Mike Scifres, who is one of the best in the game, shanked a punt, which set up the Bengals at the Chargers 32 yard line.

The Bengals went ahead 7-0 with Carson Palmer hitting rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham on a 3 yard score.  It was a lead the Bengals would never relinquish.

After both teams exchanged punts, the Chargers lost another fumble, as Mike Tolbert took the handoff, and fumbled after colliding with a Cincinnati defender.  Roy Williams recovered at the Chargers 33, and the Bengals were in business.  Mike Tolbert was hurt on the play, and left the game on the stretcher.  As of this post, his status had not been updated.  The Bengals failed to score on the drive, but the game had a definite feel of a Chargers collapse.

The Bengals went ahead 13-0 when Carson Palmer found Jerome Simpson in the corner of the endzone.  Simpson torched the Chargers all day, with 6 catches for 124 yards, and two scores.  A little too late to pick him for your fantasy team.

The Chargers showed some life in the second half, cutting the deficit to 13-10, after Ryan Mathews ran for a 23 yard score in the third quarter.  Mathews finished the day with 55 yards on 12 carries, and the score.

Any momentum the Chargers had was squashed when Philip Rivers fired down the field, looking for Randy McMichael.  Instead, the pass found Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga, and he ran it back 47 yards to set the Bengals up with another touchdown.

The Bengals officially ended the Chargers season when the aforementioned Jerome Simpson breezed pass Antonie Cason, and caught a 58 yard bomb from Carson Palmer.  When the dust settled, the Chargers lose 34-20, and will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

Going into the season, I figured the Chargers would win the AFC West, and do little damage in the playoffs.  This season, another slow start doomed the Chargers.  Where do you place the blame?  Check back next week, as I break down the disappointing season.

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