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Bengals' momentum screeches to halt in messy Chargers loss

Chargers Bengals Football
Posted at 8:05 PM, Dec 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-05 20:05:01-05

CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Mixon’s first fumble in a long time was a costly one — just one small slice of a rough day for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Joe Burrow threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and was sacked six times during Cincinnati’s 41-22 loss to Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. Mixon totaled just 54 yards on the ground against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses.

The Bengals (7-5) were hoping to build on consecutive wins against Las Vegas and Pittsburgh. Instead, they got off to a terrible start against the Chargers and stumbled down the stretch after making a big rally.

“That was a sloppy game all-around,” coach Zac Taylor said. “To get in a hole the way we did and the things that I did were unacceptable. We didn’t deserve to win.”

Cincinnati stormed back after falling behind 24-0 in the second quarter. Mixon’s 7-yard TD run made it 24-22 with 7:10 left in the third. But Mixon was stuffed on the 2-point conversion try.

Mixon then coughed up the ball in the fourth and Tevaughn Campbell took it back 61 yards for a huge score. It was Mixon’s first lost fumble since the 2020 season opener, also against the Chargers.

“I don’t know what happened,” Mixon said. “I remember getting twirled a little yet. Maybe I didn’t have the ball (grasped) yet. That play changed the game.”

After Campbell’s TD, Los Angeles forced Cincinnati to punt. Herbert then directed a four-play, 52-yard drive capped by a 1-yard TD for Austin Ekeler.

The Bengals still had time, but Burrow was intercepted in the end zone by Chris Harris Jr. with 8:07 left. Cincinnati got the ball back again, but Burrow threw short to Tee Higgins on fourth-and-5.

Burrow dislocated the pinky finger on his throwing hand when he was sacked and fumbled on the Bengals’ first offensive series. He said it popped back into place on its own and didn’t affect this passing.

Burrow was 24 for 40 for 300 yards. He also had receivers drop at least four catchable balls — two by rookie Ja’Marr Chase, who had problems with dropping passes in the preseason but had seemed to have put them behind him.

Cincinnati sorely missed offensive linemen Trey Hopkins and Riley Reiff, who were sidelined by injuries.

Trainers tried tape and gloves to stabilize Burrow’s injury, but nothing worked. He finally just played with nothing protecting it.

“It’s something I can play through,” he said. “It’s football. It’s something you play through injuries.”

Mixon rushed for a total of 288 yards and four TDs in the victories over the Raiders and Steelers. But he was held in check by the Chargers.

“It was nothing we hadn’t seen,” Mixon said. “There were a lot of technique things. The holes were there. It was just some technical things.”

Taylor took the blame for his team’s mishandling of a 2-point try after Higgins’ TD, which resulted in a delay of game penalty and then a missed extra point by rookie kicker Evan McPherson.

“That was horrific management by me,” he said. “We had a lot of missed communication, and then we missed it on top of it.”