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Justin Herbert finishes 26 of 35 passing for 317 yards, three touchdowns and one interception for the Chargers, while Joe Burrow goes 24 of 40 for 300 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions after battling finger injury; the two sides combine for seven total turnovers in sloppy game
Last Updated: 05/12/21 9:52pm
The Los Angeles Chargers breathed a sigh of relief as they survived a Cincinnati Bengals comeback by avoiding blowing a 24-0 cushion to run out 41-22 winners and improve their record to 7-5 on the year.
Story of the Game
Justin Herbert orchestrated a rampant start for the visitors with all three of his touchdown passes coming in the first half on his way towards finishing 26 of 35 for 317 yards and an interception.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, meanwhile, went 24 of 40 for 300 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions having suffered a painful finger injury that left him playing with a swollen hand in the second half.
Cincinnati were made to pay for four of the game’s seven total turnovers, including Tevaughn Campbell’s fumble recovery for a touchdown to swing momentum back in the Chargers’ favour early in the fourth quarter.
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It was the Chargers who punished early errors from their opponents, including a sloppy Ja’Marr Chase drop-turned-interception, to race to a 24-0 advantage in an action-heavy first half thanks to a brace of Keenan Allen touchdowns followed by Jalen Guyton’s 44-yard grab.
The threat of a red-hot Joe Mixon had, meanwhile, been defused by an improved Chargers run defense that coped well after the first-quarter loss of Joey Bosa to a concussion.
A Tee Higgins catch and Burrow’s six-yard run helped reduce the deficit in the second, although it came accompanied by a setback for the Bengals’ second-year quarterback, who finished the half in visible pain after injuring his little finger.
Nonetheless, Burrow remained under center and was repaid for his toughness when Austin Ekeler coughed up a second fumble of the game to gift the Bengals a route to Mixon’s seven-yard rushing score for 24-22, the Chargers thwarting the two-point attempt to cling onto their lead.
Campbell provided welcome respite for the Chargers when he returned Mixon’s fumble for a 61-yard touchdown, Ekeler went someway towards making amends for his turnovers with a one-yard score and Chris Harris Jr collected a fourth-quarter end zone interception to move Brandon Staley’s side closer to victory.
Passing: Justin Herbert, 26/35, 317 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INTRushing: Austin Ekeler, 14 carries, 59 yards, 1 TDReceiving: Mike Williams, five catches, 110 yardsKeenan Allen, five catches, 34 yards, 2 TDs
Passing: Joe Burrow, 24/40, 300 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTsRushing: Joe Mixon, 19 carries, 54 yards, 1 TDReceiving: Tee Higgins, nine catches, 138 yards, 1 TD
Herbert opened the Chargers’ fast start when he exploited Mike Williams’ size mismatch against Chidobe Awuzie for a 41-yard gain before eventually converting on fourth-and-goal with a bullet to Allen.
A catalogue of Bengals errors began as Uchenna Nwosu’s strip-sack and recovery paved the way to Dustin Hopkins’ 41-yard field goal, after which Michael Davis’ eyes lit up for an interception when Chase had inexcusably bobbled an end zone-bound pass down the sideline.
Herbert found a wide-open Allen for a seven-yard dagger after Williams had out-wrestled Mike Hilton for 47 yards and things got worse when the Chargers’ quarterback dug out a cross-field ‘go up and get it’ bomb from outside of the hash marks that saw Guyton win his duel against Jessie Bates III. Upon electing to go for two the Chargers delivered their own ‘Philly Special’-esque passage, Herbert collecting Allen’s pass after a double hand-off with Ekeler.
Higgins hauled in a 29-yard touchdown in bracket coverage to cut the deficit, only for a two-point attempt to be scuppered by a sloppy delay of game and Evan McPherson’s resulting extra point attempt to sail wide. It was then 24-13 when Burrow ran in from six yards out to reward a welcome defensive turnover courtesy of Germaine Pratt’s forced fumble and Bates’ recovery to the Chargers’ 19.
Hilton timed his helmet-on-ball hit to perfection to force Ekeler’s second fumble of the game, which the Bengals would turn into Mixon’s seven-yard burst through tackles before failing to convert the two-point attempt to leave themselves trailing 24-22. The Chargers’ response was then derailed by two straight sacks, seeing Trey Hendrickson record a sack for the eighth straight game in the process.
It was then Los Angeles’ turn to benefit from a turnover when Campbell pounced on the loose ball lost by Mixon to race away for a 61-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Ekeler punched in another from one yard out to make it 38-22 with just under 11 minutes to play after Drue Tranquill’s sack and Hopkins iced the win with a 43-yard field goal in the wake of Burrow’s end zone interception.
The Chargers continue their season at home to the New York Giants on Sunday, while the Bengals visit the San Francisco 49ers.
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