That was a wild one. Ten unanswered points by the visiting Chargers gave them a 16-13 win over the Bengals on Sunday. Trailing 13-6 entering the fourth quarter, a 46-yard kick return by rookie Joe Reed set up fellow rookie Joshua Kelley's 5-yard touchdown run. Los Angeles grabbed its first lead on Mike Badgley's 22-yard field goal with 8:56 left. The score was set up by Nick Vigil's recovery of Joe Mixon's fumble (that was forced by linebacker Denzel Perryman) at Cincinnati's 25-yard-line just moments earlier.
Despite a valiant, late-game drive by rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, the Bengals' comeback bid ended when Randy Bullock missed a 31-yard kick with seven seconds left. Burrow, making his NFL debut, went 23-of-36 for 193 yards. He was also intercepted by linebacker Melvin Ingram, who was part of a Chargers defense that held Cincinnati to just 295 total yards. Burrow also rushed for 46 yards that included a 23-yard touchdown that gave the Bengals a 7-0 first-quarter lead.
After a slow start, the Chargers' offense did enough to help Los Angeles leave Cincinnati with the win. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for 208 yards that included 73 yards to tight end Hunter Henry. The Chargers' offense was spearheaded by their new backfield duo of Kelley and Austin Ekeler, who combed to rush for 144 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. The Chargers, who lost 10 one-possession games in 2019, also would not have won if not for Badgley, who made three of his four field goal attempts.
Here's a closer look at how the Chargers, a three-point favorite entering the game, were able to hang on for the win.
Why the Chargers won
After falling behind early, the Chargers got a few big plays from Taylor that included a 36-yard completion to Mike Williams that set up Badgley's first field goal. Taylor then connected with Henry on a 33-yarder that helped trim the Chargers' deficit to 7-6 at intermission. After struggling to run the ball early, the Chargers eventually got their running game going, with Kelley and Ekeler playing a pivotal role in the Chargers' final three scoring drives.
Los Angeles' defense also came up with two fourth quarter turnovers, while its offense did not commit a single turnover.
Why the Bengals lost
Cincinnati's run defense, one of the league's worst over the past several seasons, did them no favors on Sunday. The Bengals also committed several self-inflicted wounds that included A.J. Green's offensive pass interference penalty that wiped out what would have been a game-winning touchdown pass with just seconds left. The Bengals also needed more from Mixon, who was held to 69 yards on 19 carries.
The Bengals were unable to capitalize on a solid defensive effort from their defense that included two fourth down stops in the game's first 30 minutes.
After the Bengals went ahead 13-6, Reed's 46-yard return helped set up Kelley's game-tying touchdown. Vigil's recovery of Mixon's fumble moments later set up the game-winning score.
Play of the game
After Burrow led the Bengals' offense from their own 18 to the Chargers' 13, Cincinnati appeared destined for overtime before Bullock missed his first attempt of the season.
"Some good, and some things we've got to improve on. There were some missed opportunities, but overall, he kept his composure. [He] moved onto the next snap, which is important, and made some critical plays down the stretch that put us in position to go tie the game go win the game. Thought his decision making overall was really good; where he went with the ball. The first half, he was running for his life there, but we did a better job minimizing that in the second half." -- Bengals coach Zac Taylor on Burrow's debut
Cincinnati will take its talents to Cleveland for a Thursday night matchup against the Browns. The Bengals defeated the Browns (who fell to the Ravens in Week 1) the last time the two AFC North rivals met on the final weekend of the 2019 season. The Chargers will host the defending champion Chiefs next Sunday. Kansas City looked sharp in their opener, as rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for 138 yards and a score in the Chiefs' 34-20 win over the Texans.
Take a look at our live blog below to see how the game unfolded in real time.