The Bengals were perfect at home this season entering Sunday's contest and had also previously defeated a San Diego team that needed an overtime win in week 17 to even make the playoffs. The Bengals, much like their baseball neighbors down the road, have not won a playoff game since the turn of the century. While the Reds won in 1995, the Bengals have been kept from the second round since 1991.
Andy Dalton struggled as he completed just 56 percent of his 51 attempts and also threw two interceptions. He is winless in three career playoff games while head coach Marvin Lewis falls to 0-5 in the playoffs.
The Chargers also used a balanced attack as they ran for nearly 200 yards while Phillip Rivers was an efficient 12-of-16 for 128 yards and one touchdown.
Neither team had much success on their first drives as each team settled for a punt. San Diego took over at its own 14-yard line and then proceeded to march down the field. The Chargers capped their lengthy drive with a 5-yard touchdown run by Danny Woodhead.
The Bengals avoided disaster when Dalton fumbled, but was able to recover at midfield. Zoltan Mesko, the Bengals third punter in four weeks, was able to pin the Chargers inside their own 20. That set up a short field for the Bengals next drive where Giovani Bernard picked up 28 of the 60 on four plays. That drive ended when Dalton found Jermaine Gresham for a 4-yard yard game tying touchdown.
Cincinnati's defense was able to hold, but the Bengals squandered a big opportunity to take the lead when Bernard fumbled deep in San Diego territory. The defense held again and Dalton connected for three passes of 13 yards to set up a Mike Nugent field goal right before the half.
That would be the last time Cincinnati held the lead as San Diego scored on its first possession of the second half when Rivers found Ladarius Green for a 4-yard touchdown. Dalton followed with a series of misfortunes as he was sacked, threw an incompletion, and then after picking up 12 yards, fumbled to set up a San Diego field goal.
Another Dalton turnover led to another field goal when he was picked off by Shareece Wright. The next drive ended the same way for Cincinnati as this time it was Melvin Ingram that picked Dalton.
A turnover on downs stopped the Bengals from cutting into the 20-10 lead, but it was a 58 yard scamper into the end zone by Ronnie Brown that officially finished off the Bengals Super Bowl hopes.
San Diego will head to Denver as three of the four home teams lost this Wild Card weekend. The Eagles and Packers also suffered the same fate as Cincinnati. Indianapolis heads to New England in the other AFC matchup.
Passing: CIN-Dalton (29-51, 334 yards, TD, 2 INT, fumble) SD-Rivers (12-16, 128 yards, TD)
Rushing: CIN-Bernard (12 carries, 45 yards, fumble) SD-Brown (8 carries, 77 yards, TD)
Receiving: CIN-Marvin Jones (8 catches, 130 yards) SD-Green (3 catches, 34 yards, TD)
Tackles: CIN-Rey Maualuga (15) SD-Donald Butler (12)
Sacks: CIN-1 SD-3
Turnovers: CIN-4 SD-0