TDBH: Bengals survive San Diego slugfest to close on division title

Posted Nov 30, 2017

This Day in Bengals History - December 1, 2013

SAN DIEGO — It was the toughest of wins in the toughest of months, a West Coast game to start December against a contender, and when the Bengals emerge with a 15-round, 17-10 decision over the Chargers head coach Marvin Lewis knows exactly whom and what to thank. "We’re a tough bunch and they thrive on toughness and grit. They’re led by tough people up front on both sides of the football," Lewis says. He has a roster of tough guys to celebrate a win that puts the Bengals at 8-4 and on the brink of Lewis’ team-record third division title and third straight play-off berth now that they have a two-game lead on Baltimore with four to play.  Lewis can start naming names with a re-tooled offensive line that responds to left guard Clint Boling’s season-ending knee injury on the afternoon’s fifth play with a massive game of 164 yards rushing in an effort that sees the Bengals melt the last 4:43 with eight straight runs and two kneel-downs from quarterback Andy Dalton even with Boling and injured right guard Kevin Zeitler on the bench.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth moves from left tackle to left guard and gives new meaning to the team's power play that he figures he runs ten straight times late in the game. And there is no one tougher than running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and his 92 yards on 20 carries. With the Bengals leading, 17-7, with about seven minutes left, he has one of his rare fumbles on the doorstep of the red zone and gives the Chargers a life and field goal. But Lewis puts BJGE right in the fray again.   "All the offensive guys had my back. The coaches gave me the ball. I was very happy about that," Green-Ellis says. "I was excited that Coach gave me a chance to go out there and get more touches at the end of the game so I could make up for the fumble. You can never make up for those. The whole team had my back to get another chance." The offense doesn’t have a corner on tough guys. After suffering a non-contact ankle injury in the practice before Friday’s flight, WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict gets on the plane in a boot and with the NFL tackling lead. By Sunday morning the ankle doesn’t look much better but enough that Burfict is pleading to play. When Lewis relents, Burfict senses his coach has second-thoughts. “Trust me," Burfict tells him, and he plays all but one of the 65 snaps, racing sideline-to-sideline for 13 tackles as the Bengals strangle a top five offense at home a week after the Chargers destroy Kansas City with 41 points.

Three turnovers—one in the red zone and one on the doorstep—and the defense's work against San Diego's underneath weapons win this one. Running back Danny Woodhead, the leader among NFL running backs for catches and yards, has just two and 13, respectively, and Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates is victimized for two critical turnovers while being held to 41 yards. "It was matchup; Woodhead and Gates," Burfict says. "They're great catching the ball and making people miss. I think we did a great job of running to the ball and just executing the defense. Everyone was on their keys. Zim puts a lot of emphasis … on when we get inside the 40-yard-line we have to stop them. … When we crossed their 50 and we step up and make plays." Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will get courted for head coaching jobs after the season when he takes down (in order) this season Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford. Next? Zimmer takes Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers's NFL-best 70.8 completion percentage and holds him to 62 percent with a suffocating second half the Bengals yield only a pair of 15-yard passes to wide receiver Keenan Allen and tight end Ladarius Green for the Chargers’ longest plays. "That’s a good defense. They’ve got good linebackers that tackle and really run," Rivers says after he offers a season-low 80 passer rating. "The secondary is a very experienced group that plays well.” But as Rivers finds out, Lewis has plenty of tough guys.”

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