The Los Angeles Chargers had every reason to be susceptible to a trap game against Cincinnati.
The Chargers were coming off an emotional, come-from-behind victory against Pittsburgh last Sunday and a key AFC West showdown at Kansas City was fast approaching.
Sunday's 26-21 victory over the Bengals was not one of Los Angeles' best-played games of the season, but it does improve the record to 10-3 going into Thursday night's game against the 11-2 Chiefs for the division lead.
"Everyone wanted to talk about Pittsburgh and if it wasn't Pittsburgh then it was Kansas City. This team was dangerous and we got out of there with a win," Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said.
The Chargers scored touchdowns on their first two drives and then got four field goals from Michael Badgley — including a team-record 59-yarder — to deal the Bengals (5-8) their fifth straight loss.
"We did enough to win. Shoot, they all count the same. We found a way to win, in a different way," said Philip Rivers, who was 19 of 29 for 220 yards and a touchdown.
The Chargers had 160 yards of offense on their first two drives — which ended in a Keenan Allen 14-yard TD catch and 5-yard score by Austin Ekeler — but had 128 the remainder of the game. Three of the last eight drives started at or inside the Chargers 7.
Ekeler rushed for 66 yards on 15 carries with Melvin Gordon missing his second straight game due to a knee injury. Allen had five receptions for 78 yards and has a touchdown in five straight games.
"Sometimes you just have to play complementary football. Defensively we stopped them when we needed to," Lynn said. "Offensively we started out, but then slowed down and kicked field goals the rest of the day."
Cincinnati had good field position for most of the day with an average drive start of its 35. Joe Mixon had 111 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown. Jeff Driskel, who was making his second straight start since Andy Dalton's season-ending thumb injury, was 18 of 27 for 170 yards and a touchdown.
"The decisions I made today didn't work out. We didn't get to make the break. This or that decision put us in situations, whether it's fourth down and we've got to make the stop, the 2-point (conversion) and so forth, those things today, we didn't get to make the breaks," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said.
Cincinnati got within two points at 14-12 late in the first half on a pair of field goal by Bullock — one came after an apparent TD run by Driskel was overturned by replay — and Driskel's 5-yard TD pass to John Ross (the 2-point attempt was no good). The Chargers, though, would take a 17-12 lead when Badgley made his 59-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
The Chargers led 23-15 late in the fourth quarter when Mixon scored from a yard out. The 2-point attempt, which would have tied the game, failed when Driskel was sacked by Darius Philon.
Driskel appeared to score a touchdown with about five minutes remaining in the second quarter on a 1-yard scramble that would have brought the Bengals within four, but replay overturned it saying he was short of the goal line.
In the past, quarterbacks were safe to go head-first and not be considered to be giving himself up, but that was changed this season.
"He dove forward to the goal line and as soon as his knee hit the ground, he was ruled to have given himself up. The ball was short of the goal line," referee John Hussey said after the game.
The overturn meant the ball was spotted inches short of the goal line and brought up fourth-and-goal. Bengals guard Alex Redmond was then called for a false start and Cincinnati had to settle for a Bullock 23-yard field goal that cut the Chargers' margin to 14-6.
BIG LEG BADGLEY
Badgley, who had the winning field goal last Sunday at Pittsburgh, now has the longest field goal in Chargers history.
The Chargers attempted a Hail Mary with a second remaining, which resulted in Rivers being sacked, but Bengals defensive end Jordan Willis was called for a false start, which brought out Badgley, who said he was very confident about making it.
"You got to go out there with that kind of confidence. If you're going out there thinking you're going to miss it you probably shouldn't be kicking it," said Badgley, who is 14 of 15 on field goals since joining the Chargers last month. "But going out there, it was a way for us to steal momentum from them at the end of the half, go into the second half with more points. It was definitely good for us to get those points at the end of the half."
The former team record was a 57-yarder by Nate Kaeding at Tampa Bay on Dec. 21, 2008.
Bengals: Host Oakland next Sunday before concluding the season with two straight road games.
Chargers: Travel to Kansas City on Thursday night in a matchup of two of the top teams in the AFC.
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