SAN DIEGO – When the Bengals offensive line got shuffled early in Cincinnati's 17-10 victory over San Diego on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium, the Bengals dug deep and came up with a season-high 164 rushing yards. But most importantly they netted the final 32 yards of the game that kept the ball away from the Chargers in the final four minutes with eight straight runs, seven by running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis on the way to 92 yards on 20 carries.
Left tackle Anthony Collins, who moved from right tackle to left when head coach Marvin Lewis indicated left guard Clint Boling suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fourth quarter, talked about the 150-yard rushing sign in the offensive line's room. The Bnegals have hit it only three times this season and not since October.
"All we see is no, no, no, yes, no, no, no," Collins said. "This time it's going to feel good to go into our meeting room. And we put it on our back and we won the game."
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth moved to left guard and Andre Smith came off the bench to play right tackle in place of Collins. Smith is the starter, but Lewis wouldn't say why Smith was benched.
"It was old school with Whit in there," Green-Ellis said. "He's so big, when he pulls I can't even see the linebacker."
Green-Ellis figured he ran that power play where Whitworth pulls about 10 times and center Kyle Cook said they ran it on the last one that killed the clock for good, a five-yarder on third-and-four.
"You hate to see a guy go down but I get fired up to play inside," Whitworth said. "AC is a more than capable left tackle and he is able to step in. I love to be a tone-setter inside." With about seven minutes left, Green-Ellis suffered a crushing fumble as the Bengals drove into the red zone at the Chargers 20 with a 17-7 lead when he lost the handle as he converted a third-and-one.
"I was glad the defense held them to only a field goal and the line had my back," Green-Ellis said.
TACKLING TEZ: Lewis was left shaking his head after what he called another "special" performance by second-year WILL backer Vontaze Burfict. Burfict turned his ankle in practice Friday and it was bad enough that Lewis said, "Not many guys would have played … but he's got special powers."
No one who saw Burfict at Saturday's walkthrough thought he would play. But the NFL's leading tackler came up with 13 more gritty tackles as he barely came off the field.
Burfict said he assured Lewis he could play, but he admitted, "He was second-guessing himself."
"I think he has special powers and he used them all today," Lewis said. "Most people wouldn't have been able to play today. There's no doubt in my mind, most people wouldn't have been able to play. I had no doubt that he would play.
"He had another special day. He worked his tail off. Everything he does, he played sideline to sideline today on a bad ankle. We'll put him back in the boot and take him out on Thursday and get back to work with him."
Burfict led a defense that shut down one of the hottest quarterbacks in the game in San Diego's Philip Rivers a week after he put up 41 points on Kansas City. Rivers came in with a career-high 106 passer rating and the Bengals held him to a season-low 80 while holding running back Danny Woodhead to just two catches for 13 yards. Woodhead came into Sunday leading all NFL backs in catches and yards. The Chargers had turned it over just 13 times all year, but the Bengals rung up three takeaways Sunday.
"The big thing was making sure of the tackle and make sure he didn't get yards after catch," said safety George Iloka.
Iloka caused the third turnover with 8:17 left at the Chargers 34, but it was on wide receiver Keenan Allen after he caught a short pass on second-and-15. Iloka was covering him, but slipped and he got the first down. But then Iloka punched out the ball when he caught up and linebacker Vinny Rey recovered.
"They'll get on me about slipping when we watch film tomorrow," Iloka said. "But then I'll get an 'atta boy,' too."
GREEN PASTURES: For A.J., it was all Green on Sunday. As in the end zone, which was all Green because no one was near him when he caught his 21-yard touchdown that proved to be go-ahead score. That's because tight end Jermaine Gresham drew the coverage.
"The two linebackers ands safety jumped him I just came wide open," said Green, who couldn't remember an easier TD catch.
Green injured his hip early in the game when quarterback Andy Dalton overthrew him on third down, but he came in for the next series. His biggest (and longest) catch of the day opened the last series with just under five minutes left when he beat man coverage down the right sideline for 28 yards.
"He was playing tight," Green said. "I was patient at the line, gave him a little quick jab inside and Andy threw a great ball."
Green also took the blame for Dalton's interception, a long ball into double coverage that got overthrown "I'm supposed to stay high and I went (wide) when I saw ann opening," he said. "My fault."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Green-Ellis bounced back from a devastating fumble on the doorstep of the red zone with about seven minutes left. After never fumbing during his first four seasons in New England, it was his second fumble this season and fourth as a Bengal. Safety Michael Gilchrist caused this one.
"The guy was underneath me and his helmet got right on the ball," BJGE said. "I should have lowered my shoulder and put two hands on contact. But I just tried to power through him."