Final, Chargers 27-10: This one is all wrapped up. The Bengals couldn’t end it with a meaningless touchdown.
After watching Andy Dalton, Patriots fans might wish their team was facing Cincinnati. San Diego matches up well with the Broncos, however. They already beat Denver at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Fourth quarter, 2:17, Chargers 27-10: Maybe the Chargers can close out the game now?
Dalton connected with Marvin Jones. Dalton was then sacked by Chargers defensive tackle Cam Thomas, Giovani Bernard dropped a pass and Dalton missed Marvin Jones on 4th and 13.
As I was typing that update up, Ronnie Brown ran for a long touchdown. This game is officially put away. The Patriots will face the Colts next Saturday at 8:15 p.m.
Fourth quarter, 4:14, Chargers 20-10: San Diego continues to struggle to close out this game. Ryan Mathews is staying on the sideline for undisclosed reasons, so Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown have been responsible for running the ball to try to eat clock. It’s not working so far.
The Chargers went 3 and out.
Fourth quarter, 4:44, Chargers 20-10: Andy Dalton made a puzzling decision on 4th and 3 at midfield. He chucked the ball deep — too deep — over Marvin Jones’ head. That could very well be the ball game if the Chargers can get the ball moving on the ground.
Earlier in the drive, Dalton threw deep to A.J. Green, who couldn’t hold onto the well-placed ball.
The Bengals can’t get out of their own way right now.
Fourth quarter, 7:55, Chargers 20-10: The Bengals are doing their best to give this game away, but the Chargers aren’t letting them.
San Diego could have put this game away with a score, but the Cincinnati defense is holding strong.
The Bengals could be right back in this game with a field goal or touchdown.
Fourth quarter, 10:28, Chargers 20-10: Andy Dalton really does not want to win this game nor face the Patriots.
The Bengals quarterback was picked off by Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram. He now has two interceptions and a lost fumble.
He was moving the ball before the turnover, too, completing passes to Marvin Jones, A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard. But then he completed one to Melvin Ingram and all of his progress was lost.
Fourth quarter, 14:16, Chargers 20-10: The Chargers couldn’t get it in on third down, so they settled for the field goal. A 10-point lead is still commanding, but it doesn’t put quite as much pressure on Dalton and the Bengals. Now, they can settle for the field goal without thinking they have failed.
End third quarter, Chargers 17-10: The Chargers have the ball on Cincinnati’s 1-yard line. If they can get another touchdown here, this game might be out of reach for Dalton and the Bengals.
Third quarter, 1:11, Chargers 17-10: The Bengals just got Andy Dalton’d again. The Bengals quarterback faced pressure and chucked an ill-advised throw off his back foot right into San Diego cornerback Shareece Wright’s waiting arms.
Wright brought it back deep into Bengals territory. The Chargers are knocking on the door again.
Third quarter, 2:00, Chargers 17-10: The Chargers now have a touchdown lead over the Bengals, which is key in this back-and-forth game.
Philip Rivers only has 128 passing yards, but he’s done a nice job of spreading the ball around to all of his targets.
Third quarter, 5:57, Chargers 14-10: Welp, that was a horrendous three-play drive for Andy Dalton.
He got sacked on the first play after he had plenty of time to throw the ball away, then he threw an incomplete pass. On the third play, he scrambled, dove head first and fumbled the ball away to Chargers safety Jahleel Addae.
San Diego now has the ball at midfield. Dalton dove head first — short of the first down — landed on the football and it popped out.
Third quarter, 6:46, Chargers 14-10: The Chargers have retaken the lead.
Rivers got the Chargers into the red zone on a 33-yard pass to Eddie Royal. On the next play, Rivers chucked it up in the end zone to super-athletic tight end Lardarius Green for the touchdown. Green showed great field awareness by tapping his second foot before going out of bounds.
The more I think about it, I think the Patriots match up better with the Colts than the Bengals. Patriots fans should probably be cheering for San Diego in this one.
Third quarter, 12:26, Bengals 10-7: The Bengals couldn’t get anything going on their first drive of the second half. It would have been big for the Bengals to get another score to start the third quarter.
End half, Bengals 10-7: There was some major confusion at the end of that half.
Jermaine Gresham made a catch down the sidelines, got both feet in bounds, had a foot touch out of bounds, then dropped the ball when he landed, making it appear that it would be ruled a non-catch because of the Calvin Johnson rule (must maintain possession through the catch, even when going to the ground). The Bengals then spiked the ball with two seconds left because the clock did not stop (he had forward progress before he went out of bounds).
Jeff Triplette and his crew decided to review the Gresham catch, even though Cincinnati had just spiked the ball.
Triplette said that since Gresham had forward progress, the catch stood. No one understands the Calvin Johnson rule.
The Bengals then kicked a field goal with two seconds left and they lead by three at the half. It appears they should have got the ball back with 10 seconds left, since that was how much time was left after Gresham’s catch.
Second quarter, 1:14, 7-7: All that fumble wound up being was a field-position change. The Chargers drained 33 second off the clock and pushed the Bengals back to their own 32-yard line.
The Chargers went 3 and out.
Second quarter, 1:47, 7-7: The Bengals were gaining that momentum I was just talking about and then the Chargers ripped it away.
Marvin Jones made two huge plays. The biggest was a 49-yard diving grab down the sideline that put Cincinnati inside the red zone.
Then Andy Dalton hit Giovani Bernard, and as he was racing for the end zone, Chargers linebacker Donald Butler stripped the rookie running back. The ball was recovered by Chargers cornerback Richard Marshall.
The play was reviewed and it stands. San Diego has the ball.
Second quarter, 3:37, 7-7: The Chargers couldn’t get anything going and went 3 and out. Philip Rivers came close to picking up a first down on the ground, but came up half a yard short.
There’s not much rhythm to this game so far. Either team has a chance to get the momentum with a big play.
Second quarter, 5:59, 7-7: We’re all locked up at 7-7 now.
Rookie running back Giovani Bernard showed off some impressive strength for his size on that drive. He now has six carries for 25 yards.
Dalton showed some impressive poise on his touchdown pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham. He got hit while he threw, but still delivered the pass accurately.
That was Dalton’s first postseason touchdown pass in three games.
Second quarter, 12:06, Chargers 7-0: The Chargers went 3 and out on that drive, picking up just 8 yards on Ryan Mathews carries. It looked like there was some miscommunication between Rivers and wide receiver Keenan Allen on 3rd and 2. Rivers’ pass went incomplete.
Second quarter, 13:37, Chargers 7-0: Andy Dalton is starting off this game Andy Dalton-ish.
On 3rd and 1, Dalton’s throw was nearly picked off. He’s now 3 for 6 for 26 yards.
Dalton has a lot to prove in this game. The Bengals have nearly every advantage against the Chargers except at quarterback.
First quarter, 0:48, Chargers 7-0: The Danny Woodhead signing worked out for the Chargers during the regular season and it’s already paying off in the playoffs.
Woodhead has three carries for 13 yards and a touchdown with two catches for 14 yards Woodhead took in his score from five yards out. It was his first-career postseason touchdown.
San Diego’s most impressive play came when Rivers evaded pressure, rolled out to his left and floated his pass out to Woodhead.
First quarter, 7:44: The Bengals fared just slightly better than the Bengals on their first drive. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis picked up two first downs.
Former Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko was picked up by Cincinnati this week. His punt landed at the 14-yard line, pinning San Diego with some less-than-ideal field position.
First quarter, 11:44: The Chargers got just one first down on their opening drive.
The lone first down came on a Danny Woodhead reception. Running back Ryan Mathews had two carries for 9 yards. Woodhead also had one carry for three yards.
Quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked on 3rd and 5.
First quarter, 15:00: Cincinnati won the toss and chose to defer. The Chargers will start with the ball.
12:55 p.m: We’re getting close to kickoff.
Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones is a player to watch. He’s been a force in the end zone this season with 10 touchdowns. He had 51 catches for 712 yards. He was a steal as a fifth-round pick in last year’s draft.
11:35 a.m.: We’re an hour and a half from kickoff and approximately four and a half hours from knowing who the Patriots are playing in Round 2.
The inactives are in. Cornerback Terence Newman, running back Rex Burkhead, tight end Kevin Brock, wide receivers Ryan Whalen and Dane Sanzenbacher, defensive tackle Ogemdi Nwagbuo and offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson are inactive for the Bengals; defensive tackle Sean Lissemore, safety Brandon Taylor, wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins, cornerback Marcus Cromartie, offensive linemen Kenny Wiggins and Stephen Schilling and quarterback Brad Sorensen are inactive for the Chargers.
8 a.m. ET: It’s impressive that Andy Dalton has been able to lead the Cincinnati Bengals to the playoffs in his first three seasons in the NFL.
The Bengals quarterback has struggled in those postseason appearances, however as Dalton has yet to win a playoff game. The third-year signal caller has a 56.9-percent completion percentage, 384 yards, four interceptions and zero touchdowns in his two postseason games.
Dalton must play better if Cincinnati hopes to beat Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers quarterback has fared better in seven postseason games, but not by much. He’s 3-4 while completing 58.5 percent of his passes for 1,820 yards and eight touchdowns with nine interceptions. (Interesting note to New England Patriots fans: Rivers is 0-2 against the Patriots in the playoffs and 2-0 head to head with Peyton Manning. If San Diego wins, Rivers would face Manning’s Broncos.)
Rivers hasn’t appeared in the postseason since losing to the Mark Sanchez-led New York Jets in 2009. Rivers had a vintage season under the underrated Chargers head coach, Mike McCoy. Rivers led the league with a 69.5-percent completion percentage with 4,478 yards, 32 touchdowns and 11 interception.
This matchup could come down to Dalton and Rivers. If there’s a weakness to Cincinnati, it’s Dalton’s inconsistency.
The Chargers have a great, well-rounded offense with Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead at running back, while the Bengals have a top-rated defense that did not seem to skip a beat even after losing star defensive tackle Geno Atkins. They also have one of the best wide receivers in the NFL: A.J. Green.
If the Bengals win, the Patriots face Cincinnati. If the Chargers win, New England plays the Colts.
Stay here for all the latest updates leading up the game, which kicks off at 1:05 p.m.