As the Chargers prepare for a chilly playoff matchup with the Bengals this Sunday, it behooves us all to take a gander back at what transpired between these teams a month ago in San Diego. Though the weather will be immensely different than the first meeting, the players and coaches remain the same. To what extent the offensive game plans for each team change due to the sloppy weather forecast remains to be seen, but these are the PLAYOFFS…both teams will look to their “money” players regardless.
The biggest stat that jumps out at me from the first meeting is the way each team achieved their first downs. The Bolts made a total of 19 first downs: 13 through the air, 5 on the ground and 1 due to a penalty. Conversely, the Bengals achieved their 19 first downs primarily on the ground. Cincinnati racked up 13 first downs by rushing the ball while attaining 6 by way of the pass. The Chargers cannot allow the Bengals to dictate tempo by allowing BenJarvis Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard to consistently move the chains this Sunday. To win defensively, we must stuff the run and put Andy Dalton into known passing situations. By doing so, the Bolts can send additional pass rushers. Our cornerbacks will have a tough time keeping up with Bengal wideouts A.J. Green and Andrew Hawkins, so not allowing Dalton time to sit comfortably in the pocket is paramount to achieving more 3-and-outs.
Nearly all of the other pertinent stats from the first meeting were identical. If our offense can maintain balance, keep feeding Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead the ball and control the clock with quick high-percentage passes, the Chargers have an excellent chance of moving on to the next round of the playoffs. These two teams match up very evenly and should provide for a very exciting, down to the wire finish. What a way to start off 2014!
In the words of Philip Rivers himself…”Keep believing!”