In consecutive season’s the Los Angeles Chargers would travel to Cincinnati to play the Bengals. This time, the Chargers young quarterback would start, whereas last season he was on the bench, postponing the matchup between two of the top three drafted quarterbacks in the 2020 NFL draft. This would likely be the first of many match-ups between the #1 draft pick of the draft Joe Burrow and the #6 draft pick of the draft Justin Herbert.
Although Herbert won the Rookie of the Year award last season. It was the Bengals Joe Burrow, that was leading all rookie’s before suffering a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee. Once Herbert grabbed the reigns of the Chargers team in only his second game, the Oregon Duck draft pick would show his superior arm talent and solid leadership to the NFL and fans all across the league.
Chargers Brandon Staley would say Wednesday leading up to the game about these two quarterbacks, “It’s exciting for the NFL when you have two players of this caliber; I think they’re two of the elite young players in the league. Their styles are very different, the type of players that they are. But I think that their leadership, their toughness, their smarts, all those things that make a franchise quarterback.”Under new tutelage this season Herbert has led the Chargers to six wins and five losses; though the Chargers would find themselves one game back of the seven and four Bengals, in the American Football Conference playoff race.
Unlike last season’s low-scoring game, the Chargers raced out to a 24-0 lead in this game. Their first score came from a 4th down TD catch from Keenan Allen. They converted a Uchenna Nwosu forced fumble into three points. Before a Michael Davis interception of Burrow led to a second Keenan Allen touchdown catch. After exchanging punts, Jalen Guyton wrestled a 44-yard pass from Herbert away from a Bengals defender for their third touchdown of the first half. The Chargers would then execute a two-point conversion that had Keenan Allen throw a pass to Justin Herbert, in a role reversal of sorts.
Just as the Charger’s scoring binge began with a turnover. This game changed for the Bengals, when they forced a fumble by one of the game’s most versatile players in Austin Ekeler. The Bengals would then capitalize on the turnover midway through the second quarter when Burrow scrambled for their first touchdown of the game. On the next Chargers drive, Herbert’s deep ball was intercepted by the Bengals’ 5th-year defensive back Chidobe Awuzie to close out the first half of this game.
After he suffered a head injury, the Chargers loss their All-Pro Edge rusher Joey Bosa in the first half. Bosa’s absence and a second fumble by Ekeler would aid the Bengals in kicking a field goal, and a Joe Mixon touchdown run would make this a 2-point game late in the third quarter. That touchdown would also be Mixon’s ninth consecutive game scoring a touchdown this season.
Chargers defensive tackle Christian Covington would change the game again, when he forced Joe Mixon to fumble, that fumble was picked up by Tevaughn Campbell who ran it 61-yards into the endzone to extend the Chargers’ lead. Midway through the final quarter as the Bengals were driving, veteran cornerback Chris Harris Jr. would then snatch, his first interception of the season, out the air, keeping the Bengals out of the endzone. The Chargers would add a 43-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal to complete the scoring for the game and secure their seventh win of the season.
Staley’s confidence in his team was evident in his post press conference, when he said post-game, “This is a really good team. We came out with a lot of energy, played with a purpose, and played the way we’re capable of playing. Our execution and our energy was fantastic in the game, and then there was the middle stretch that was tough for us, which was completely our doing. But then in the fourth quarter, we finished the game playing our best. It was 17-0 in the fourth quarter. We finished the game playing our best football as a team, and I really liked the way we executed in the fourth quarter to really put that game away. I felt like it was a team win in every aspect.”
Although Joey Bosa left the game early for the Chargers, his teammates were ready to pick up the slack. Linebacker Kyzir White said as much in his post-game press conference, “It’s the next man up mentality. Joey is a great player, and we want him out there. But the guys behind him knew they’d have to step up. You see Chris Rumph come in and grab a sack. That was huge.”
The Chargers eclipse the 40-point mark for the third time this season, and they become the first Chargers’ team to do so since 2008. The Chargers’ defense also recorded six sacks and forced the Bengals to cough the ball up four times. Nwosu’s strip-sack gives the Chargers a conference-best eight strip-sacks on the year. Derwin James Jr. has now recorded 100 tackles this season, and he becomes the eighth player and first defensive back since at least 2000 with 100 tackles in a season after missing the entire previous due to injury.
Also, in this game, Justin Herbert threw for 300-yards for the 15th time in his young career, adding to his NFL record through a player’s first two seasons. Herbert has now recorded 11 games with at least three touchdown passes, which is good for second-most through a player’s first two seasons and only two games behind Hall of Famer Dan Marino. Fifth-year receiver Mike Williams recorded his third 100-yard game of the season. He also caught a pair of passes of at least 40 yards, which gives him an NFL best seven receptions of 40-plus yards this season.
This was an all-around team win for the Chargers. Their confidence as a team appears to be growing at the right time of the year. They have the 4-8 Giants coming to town next week and another chance to win consecutive games for the third consecutive month this season. Kindly share your thoughts on the Chargers growth this season by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I encourage you to submit any suggestions on what angles or players on this Los Angeles Chargers team you would like to read about this season.
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