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Other Week 14 Game Recaps

Week 14 Game Recap: Cincinnati Bengals 21, Los Angeles Chargers 26

What you need to know

Cincinnati Bengals

-The Bengals exceeded expectations in a tough road matchup against the Chargers.

-Jeff Driskel is nothing special but at least looks competent and capable of moving the offense.

-The Bengals finally leaned heavily on Joe Mixon, sticking with the run despite falling into an early hole. It led to success and we should see more run-heavy game plans moving forward.

-Mixon handled a career-high 31 touches, handling nearly every carry and also leading the team with 5 receptions.

-Cincinnati hasnít had a successful 2-point conversion in over three years. Two failed attempts were the difference

Los Angeles Chargers

Philip Rivers was efficient, but he had to deal with a lot of pressure from the Cincinnati front after the opening possession. It was the first time this season that Rivers failed to throw at least two touchdown passes, which was a bit shocking considering how poorly the Bengals had played defense so far this year (though he did manage to find the end zone once and came close on a couple of other occasions).

The running back tandem of Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson was effective, although Ekeler did nearly all of the damage. Jackson looked much better in last week's game and some felt that that momentum would carry over to this week, but it wasn't the case as Ekeler dominated the touches by a 2-1 margin and got all of the key work. Ekeler, however, was injured on the onside kick attempt late in the fourth quarter and it looks like he may miss this week's game against the Chiefs. If he can't go and Melvin Gordon remains out, Jackson would likely stand to gain a lot more work.

Keenan Allen continues to wreak havoc on opposing defenses. The stat line doesn't jump out at you, but the Bengals had no answers for him (as has been the case with most teams the past month or so). Allen snagged the lone receiving touchdown for the Chargers in this one on the opening possession, and enjoyed game highs in both receptions and receiving yardage in a game largely played on the ground.

Cincinnati Bengals

QB Jeff Driskel, 67 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 27 - 170 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 12 - 0
Driskel was again solid in relief of Dalton. Most importantly, he played mistake-free football. The Bengals didnít turn the ball over at all despite facing a fierce pass rush. The one real negative aspect of Driskelís performance was accuracy on short throws. He sailed a pass over the head of John Ross on what should have been an easily completed out route. On the other hand, Driskel showed his arm strength and solid accuracy on the more difficult downfield throws. He zipped one in to Tyler Boyd for a 19-yard gain. He put a lot of steam on a later 20-yard completion to Boyd as well. Driskel scrambled for nine yards on an early 3rd-and-4, showing excellent speed to get the edge and turn it up along the sideline. He was robbed of a short rushing touchdown. He dove head-first into the end zone and the play was initially ruled a touchdown. However, on review it was ruled that quarterbacks give themselves up when they dive and he was thus marked down just shy of the end zone and the Bengals were instead forced to settle for a field goal. Driskel led a 79-yard touchdown drive just before halftime, capped off with a 6-yard touchdown pass to John Ross. Driskel showed good pocket awareness to step up and buy time for Ross to come wide open on the crossing route. Driskel led a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter to brings

RB Joe Mixon, 47 offensive snaps, Rush: 26 - 111 - 1, Rec: 5 - 27 - 0 (6 targets)
After facing criticism in recent weeks for not getting Mixon enough touches, the Bengals coaching staff fully committed to a Mixon-centric game plan. He set career highs in carries (26) and touches (31). From the opening drive, it was all Mixon. He burst through the middle for an 18-yard gain on his first carry of the day. A couple plays later, he took a swing pass for an 11-yard gain. The Bengals again fell behind early, trailing 14-3 early. Unlike past weeks, they didnít abandon the run and kept feeding Mixon. The second drive again featured Mixon almost exclusively and he touched the ball 10 times on the Bengals first 12 plays. He showed elite patience and burst taking back-to-back carries for nine yards. Mixon also showed well as a receiver. Aside from a pass that was batted down at the line, he caught all of his targets and led the team in receptions. Mixon had a goal line carry on an early 2nd-and-goal and dove forward just shy of the goal line. The Bengals relied heavily on Mixon to the end. He touched the ball eight times on a late 79-yard touchdown drive. Mixon capped it off with a one-yard touchdown run up the middle.

RB Giovani Bernard, 25 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 7 - 0, Rec: 2 - 13 - 0 (2 targets)
With the Bengals intent on riding Mixon, Bernardís playing time was more limited than in recent weeks. He did come in to start the third drive of the game, as he typically does and picked up a tough five yards on a run up the middle. On the drive, he got a carry on 1st-and-goal from the three-yard line but was stuffed. Mixon came in for the next play. The Bengals threw a swing pass to Bernard on a two-point conversion attempt but he wasnít able to make Derwin James miss and was dropped for a loss.

WR Tyler Boyd, 64 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 52 - 0 (6 targets)
Boyd had a solid game but wasnít as heavily targeted as expected. He caught a post for a 19-yard gain to get the Bengals into the red zone. Boyd made a diving catch on an out route for a 13-yard gain. He also caught a 20-yard past on a post route. Boyd drew a holding penalty in the end one in the final minutes of the game to set up a touchdown.

WR John Ross, 60 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 11 - 1 (4 targets)
Ross grabbed a 6-yard touchdown on a crossing route. The Bengals lined up with three receivers to the right and had two of them run crossing routes against the Chargers zone. This flooded the middle and caused the linebacker to let Ross run free for the easy catch. Crossers to Ross near the goal line have been the Bengals go-to red zone passing play since A.J. Green went out. This is the third touchdown in five weeks he has caught on a crossing route. Ross drew a pair of pass interference penalties, including on a key 3rd-down late that setup the Bengals final touchdown and two-point attempt to tie.

TE C.J. Uzomah, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 37 - 0 (3 targets)
Uzomah ran a seam route and was able to bring the ball in and hold on despite taking a big hit to the midsection from the safety. It went for a 24-yard gain. Uzomah remains one of the go-to passing game weapons but will have a hard time making a fantasy impact in games like this where the Bengals throw fewer than 30 times.

Los Angeles Chargers

QB Philip Rivers, 57 offensive snaps, Pass: 19 - 29 - 220 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 7 - 0
For the first time this season, Rivers failed to throw multiple touchdown passes. On the opening drive, it looked there was going to be no way to stop the Chargers. Rivers scrambled for five yards on the first play which is odd in and of itself, but then he fired a couple of easy looks down the field with ease to get the team into the end zone. He found Mike Williams for 19 yards on a pass play that featured one of the cleanest pockets you'll ever see, and capped the drive with a perfect floater to Keenan Allen along the end zone sideline. But just as quickly as the Chargers began dominating, the offense kind of stalled. The Bengals started getting a lot of pressure on Rivers, and he was forced to hurry throws and was sacked multiple times. On one play, Rivers had Austin Ekeler wide open down the sideline for a potentially long score, but since he was rushed, the pass ended up getting overthrown out of bounds. Rivers also had a couple of passes tipped at the line that nearly went for interceptions. In the second half it was more of the same, as the Charger offense stalled multiple times. Rivers was nearly intercepted again on what appeared to be a back shoulder pass to Allen, but the problem is that Rivers threw it out in front of him and it was nearly intercepted. Basically everything that went right on that opening drive, went wrong the rest of the way. And yet Rivers still completed over 2/3 of his pass attempts and didn't turn it over. It just seemed like the Chargers almost couldn't wait for the clock to finally expire and sneak out of the stadium with a win. Fortunately they were able to bleed enough clock late in the contest to give Cincinnati no chance to come back. And unlike the mental mistake in the Denver game a few weeks ago, this time Rivers didn't throw an incompletion on the last drive to save the Bengals any time on the clock. He actually ran to the outside on the third down play and made sure he was tackled inbounds to keep the clock moving.

RB Austin Ekeler, 39 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 66 - 1, Rec: 2 - 28 - 0 (5 targets)
Ekeler had a very solid game, but a late game injury has suddenly put his weekly availability into some doubt. Coming into the game, it was a bit up in the air as to how the Chargers would approach the decision on how to split up the running back workload. It was assumed all season long that Ekeler was the go-to handcuff to Melvin Gordon, but when Gordon missed last week's game, it was Justin Jackson who looked significantly more impressive running the ball. Any questions about Ekeler, however, were answered early on in this one. He got the first carry of the game and was in the backfield to start, and rarely left the field especially in the early going. He ran very well, displaying his trademark strength and agility, and picked up chunks of yardage behind some excellent blocking up front against the outmanned Cincinnati defense. He found creases between the tacklers, and whenever he was met by a tackler he just ran through the mostly weak attempts to bring him down. Ekeler picked up nice yardage on a well-designed screen pass down to the 5-yard line to close out the first quarter. The rest between quarters enabled him enough of a breather that he stayed in the backfield to pick up the touchdown from 5 yards out. He took it right up the middle almost untouched on his way to the end zone. Later in the first half, he was wide open down the sideline on a deep ball attempt that could have gone for another score. But Rivers was rushed a bit on the throw, and the pass sailed too far over Ekeler's head and out of bounds. Ekeler received three straight carries on the first possession of the second half following a Cincinnati turnover on downs, and even converted a 4th and 1 rush up the middle. The rest of the half, he simply dragged defenders around the field and ended up out-touching Jackson by a final count of 17-9. Unfortunately for Ekeler, he was injured on the onside kick late in the fourth quarter and it was reported afterwards that he had aggravated a stinger injury. His availability for Thursday's game against Kansas City is very much in question at this early point, and with Melvin Gordon expected out once again, this may be Jackson's turn to man the backfield for the Chargers.

RB Justin Jackson, 21 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 12 - 0, Rec: 2 - 23 - 0 (2 targets)
After looking so impressive late in last week's game against Pittsburgh, many observers expected that it would be Jackson and not Ekeler who may earn the lion's share of the carries in this game. But Ekeler started hot and never really let up, while Jackson found very little room to run and became an afterthought by halftime. He had a nice reception that he took up the sideline on a swing pass, and ran away from a weak tackle attempt for a decent gain. And later in the second half, he converted a third and 1 handoff to keep a drive alive. But he simply wasn't getting the opportunities Ekeler did (Ekeler out-touched him by a 17-9 margin). On a negative note for the Chargers but a possible positive note for Jackson owners, Ekeler appeared to injure himself on the onside kick attempt at the end of the fourth quarter, and is questionable to play against the Chiefs on a short week this week. If Ekeler cannot go against Kansas City on Thursday, it would stand to reason that Jackson would likely get the lion's share of the rushing workload since Melvin Gordon is not expected to return yet.

WR Keenan Allen, 54 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0, Rec: 5 - 78 - 1 (9 targets)
Allen's first target came at the conclusion of the team's opening drive, culminating in a touchdown to him along the sideline of the end zone. He beat his man off of a double move, and Philip Rivers lofted a perfect floater along the back sideline. Allen actually didn't get both feet inbounds since he was hit as he caught it, but he did manage to drag his knee across the turn to make it count. The remainder of the first half, he was consistently able to get open against the suspect defense of Cincinnati. It didn't help that the Chargers often started off with very poor field position, so they didn't have very many sustained drives. But he did a nice job nonetheless. He was again targeted near the goal line later in the half and looked like he had a step on the defender, but the ball was tipped at the line for an incompletion. Allen was much quieter in the second half as both teams attacked one another on the ground, but he did make an outstanding fingertip grab on a ball thrown right over his head. He had gotten open deep down the seam, and stretched out to pluck it out of mid-air while also picking up some yardage after the catch for a 37-yard pickup.

WR Tyrell Williams, 48 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 14 - 0 (3 targets)
Williams caught all of the passes intended for him, but none of them really broke the bank. He actually almost didn't catch one of the passes headed his way because he wasn't looking. Rivers began to roll out and Williams, assuming he was going to run it, turned upfield to block a defender. Just as Rivers released the ball, however, Williams managed to get his head turned around to find the ball just as it arrived to convert a 3rd and 6 pass play. It was an impressive piece of concentration on what was a key play at the time. Later in the game, he may have been the intended target of an end zone pass that Mike Williams actually jumped in front of and got his hands on, but a defender knocked the pass away. Tyrell Williams was lurking behind him and the pass actually appeared to be headed his way.

WR Mike Williams, 29 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 45 - 0 (6 targets)
Williams continues to get oh so close to fantasy relevance with each performance, but tends to always come up just short of being useful. In this game, he had three nice grabs that went for first downs. One of them was a terrific play where he used his length to go high over the middle to snatch a third and 10 pass from over the outstretched arm of a defender to pick up a key conversion at a big moment. But he just missed out on a 17-yard highlight-worthy sideline catch in the first half when he juggled the ball as he went to the ground. And later in the game, he had his hands on a pass in the end zone but some nice defense knocked the ball away at the last second before he could secure it (the ball may have actually been intended for Tyrell Williams, who was behind him).

WR Travis Benjamin, 20 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 11 - 0 (1 targets)
Benjamin turned his lone target into an 11-yard gain on a crossing route late in the first half to try and set up a Hail Mary bomb. Instead, the Chargers got a little bit closer than anticipated and ended up kicking a 59-yard field goal before the half ended.

TE Antonio Gates, 23 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 19 - 0 (2 targets)
Gates had two short receptions, both coming in the first half. The first was on a crossing route where Rivers had loads of time to wait for him to break open, and the second was a 9-yard gain over the middle from the shadow of their own end zone to give the team a bit of breathing room. After playing a somewhat prominent red zone role in recent weeks, he didn't see any looks near the end zone this time out.