SAN DIEGO -- Through the air is how the Cincinnati Bengals beat teams. Through the air is how the San Diego Chargers lose to teams.
But on Sunday, it was the Bengals' rushing attack -- and opportune defense -- that resulted in a 17-10 win over San Diego.
The Bengals (8-4) rushed for a touchdown and 164 yards, with the Chargers allowing but a lone scoring reception by wide receiver A.J. Green.
But with the reeling Chargers (5-7) scoring their lowest point total in 14 games, that was more than enough to fall for the fourth time in five outings -- especially with the Chargers committing three turnovers
"It's unacceptable," Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. "There were too many mistakes overall."
The Bengals, who maintained their two-game lead in the AFC North, were more than happy to accept them as they out-muscled the depleted Chargers in the second half.
"I can't be more proud of our effort, our energy and our resolve out there," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "It was a day where we knew that running the football was going to be important and I thought we did a good job of that."
Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis paced the Bengals with 92 yards and a score on 20 rushes. Teammate Giovani Bernard added 57 on 14 carries.
"We wore ourselves down," Chargers linebacker Manti Te'o said. "We had opportunities to make plays but they executed. The effort was there; we just got to execute better and we will bounce back."
The Chargers better hurry. They lost ground in the race for the AFC's final playoff berth while the Bengals kept their two-game bulge over the second-place Baltimore Ravens.
"They had everything running in their favor and they're playing for a playoff spot as well," said Green, who had a team-high 83 receiving yards, which included a 21-yard touchdown catch. "I knew it was going to be a physical game and we came with the mindset of running the ball and being physical."
What derailed the Chargers was that their usual potent offense was a dud.
"You can't score 10 points in this league and win very often," said Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who was 23 of 37 for 252 yards, a touchdown and an interception. "You score 10 points, and I bet the percentage of winning is not very high. That's what it came down to."
What the Bengals said
"There were times I felt like we busted coverages and I don't know how much (Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers) threw for, but overall, we did pretty good. I think we shut them down on certain occasions. I think they scored one touchdown on a blown coverage, but that's just things we need to work on and get better each week.'' -- Linebacker Vontaze Burfict, after the Bengals held the Chargers to 10 points, their lowest output in 14 games.
What the Chargers said
"Defensively, there were 104 yards in the first half they gave up and then they fell apart. They gave up 250 in the second half. There were some key drives there when we needed a big stop. Overall we have to do a better of stopping the run. We're going to watch the film tomorrow and evaluate it.'' -- Coach Mike McCoy said about his defensive players.
What we learned about the Bengals
1. The Bengals' two-headed running attack made up for the inconsistencies of quarterback Andy Dalton. It was Dalton's play which carried this team in October when he was the AFC Offensive Player of the Month. But November showed a different Dalton as he struggled with consistency and the Bengals struggled to win games. In Sunday's win over the Chargers, it was the running game behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard which was the difference. Green-Ellis rushed for 92 yards and a score, and Bernard went for 57 yards, with a long of 19.
2. The Bengals showed a resolve that has seldom been seen in Cincinnati. Maybe that comes from having a swagger from being in first place, showing a stout running game or, just maybe, there's a new attitude taking over a team which hasn't won a playoff game since 1990.
What we leaned about the Chargers
1. The Chargers are doing a quick fade, quickly changing what was a feel-good story about a rookie coach into a season which is becoming awfully ordinary -- or worse. The Chargers were once 4-3, heading into their bye, and talking about the playoffs. But since returning from their week off, the Chargers have been off. They thought they had righted the ship with their stunning victory in Kansas City last week, but this week was more of the same: another poor performance.
2. Wide receiver Keenan Allen continues to prove to be a steal in the draft. A third-round pick because of a knee injury in his final year at California, Allen turned in his fifth 100-yard game of the season, and his second in a row. Allen had a game-high 106 receiving yards.