Like they did in San Diego, the Bengals line dominated the Chargers in the run game to the tune of 113 yards on 25 carries (4.5 YPC).
Unfortunately, despite the game being within range until the 2:17 mark, Jay Gruden felt the need to run just 25 times to 51 passes (32.9%).
On a cold day with questionable weather and a QB with a poor playoff track record, one of the most balanced offenses found the need to pass 67% of their plays – or 11% above their season average. Oh yeah, and they did so despite the pass blocking being terrible, allowing 3 sacks and 6 QB hits to a defense ranked 23rd in team sacks.
We all know Dalton’s efficiency drops significantly when he is pressured and Sunday it proved to be true again.
Bernard had a great year and adds a dynamic element to this offense that I love. But, as bad as Dalton played, I believe it was Bernard’s fumble just before the half that turned this game.
If he goes down with ball in hand, the Bengals have 1st and goal from about the 2 with about 1:30 left on the clock. Chances are they punch it in and take a 14-7 lead into the half, the crowd behind them and coming out at half getting the ball with a chance to go up 21-7.
Instead, the Chargers make a huge play, bring some doubt into the minds of the Bengals (and certainly the fans) and take some momentum and confidence into half.
Despite rallying for an end of half FG, the Bengals never seemed to regain their composure after that and unraveled with 3 more turnovers in the 3rd quarter.
Krumrie’s leg, Billups’ drop, Carson’s knee and Bernard’s fumble. Add this to the list of Bengals history of playoff “what ifs.”