Bengals vs. Chargers final score: Turnovers, missed field goal spoil Joe Burrow's NFL debut

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. 

Turning point 

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 

What's next 

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.

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September 13, 2020, 11:30 PM

Randy Bullock missed a 31-yard attempt, Chargers, a three-point favorite, will hold on for a three-point win.

September 13, 2020, 11:22 PM

Burrow hits Bernard, as Bengals are now just three yards away from the win with under 20 seconds left.

September 13, 2020, 11:19 PM

Burrow eight completions on this drive. He's now 22-of-35 for 182 yards.

September 13, 2020, 11:19 PM

Burrow hits Mike Thomas for 5 and 12 yards, then hits Uzomah for 5 yards as Bengals are now at the Chargers' 14 with 18 seconds left.

September 13, 2020, 11:18 PM

Burrow hits Tyler Boyd for 10 yards, as Bengals are now technically in FG range. Would be a 53-yard attempt at this point.

September 13, 2020, 11:16 PM

Three straight completions from Burrow has gotten the Bengals to the Chargers' 48 at the two-minute warning, trailing 16-13.

September 13, 2020, 11:09 PM

Burrow runs for 4, then hits Tyler Boyd twice for a total of 12 yards to give Bengals the first down.

September 13, 2020, 11:07 PM

Chargers elect to punt, Bengals take over at their own 18 with just over 3 minutes left.

September 13, 2020, 11:06 PM

Taylor hits a clutch 10-yard pass to Virgil Green on second and 11. Bengals stuff Kelley on third and one on the ensign play. Going to be interesting to see if Chargers go for it or attempt a 50-yard attempt.

September 13, 2020, 11:05 PM

Burrow has thrown his first pick; throws it to Melvin Ingram at the Chargers' 29 with 5:19 left.

September 13, 2020, 11:02 PM

Burrow hits Uzomah for 19 more yards, as Chargers have started leaving the middle of the field.

September 13, 2020, 11:01 PM

Bengals just called their last timeout with 6:22 left. Burrow comes out of the TO, hits Uzomah for 15 yards on 3rd and 15.

September 13, 2020, 10:59 PM

Burrow has run three straight plays for 11 yards. Chargers doing a good job blanketing the Bengals' deep receiving corps. That being said, Burrow is hesitating like most rookies do.

September 13, 2020, 10:58 PM

Taylor unable to connect with Henry, leading to Badgley's 22-yard field goal gives the Chargers their first lead.

September 13, 2020, 10:52 PM

Big third and goal at the 3 coming up for the Chargers.

September 13, 2020, 10:51 PM

Big fumble by Joe Mixon, Nick Vigil recovers to give the Charges the ball at the Bengals' 24. A run by Kelley gives the Chargers the ball inside the Bengals' 10.

September 13, 2020, 10:49 PM
@Chargers via Twitter
September 13, 2020, 10:46 PM
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