Chargers, Justin Herbert knock off Bengals, solidify playoff positioning

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When you suit up as quarterback for the Chargers, you're not just facing the team across the field. You're facing down an entire franchise history of misplays, miscues, mistakes and misfires. The Chargers have come up with more creative ways to lose than pretty much any franchise in the NFL, if not in all of sports, and though the names change, the futility remains.

Justin Herbert is the latest in a long line of Charger quarterbacks, and for one afternoon at least, he stiff-armed the can't-get-it-done narrative. In one of the few Week 13 games with playoff implications for both teams, Herbert led the Chargers to a convincing 41-22 victory over the previously surging Cincinnati Bengals.

Coming into the game, Herbert ranked fourth in the NFL in passing yardage and fifth in touchdowns, but the Chargers as a team were 6-5 following a 4-1 start. The Bengals, meanwhile, were coming off two blowout victories over the Raiders and Steelers.

It didn't take long for Herbert and the Chargers to leap out to a 24-0 lead, buoyed by two straight Bengal turnovers, including a strange Ja'Marr Chase giveaway. The capstone of the run, and the entire game, was Herbert's brilliant 44-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Guyton, one of the most notable passes by any quarterback in the league this season.

Herbert also snagged a two-point Philly Special conversion, and even managed to play a little defense too, throwing a shoulder when Cincinnati recovered a downfield fumble:

Laying the lumber. (CBS)
Laying the lumber. (CBS)

His coaches will hate that one on film, but that's exactly the kind of effort that fires up an entire team.

Herbert finished the day with 317 yards on 26 of 35 passes, with three touchdowns and an interception. He took four sacks, which isn't great, but he rallied the team when Cincinnati had closed to within 24-22, which is.

The victory solidifies Los Angeles's playoff positioning in a scrapping AFC, and the rest of the season sets up nicely. It's tough to consider any game a guaranteed W in the NFL, but when you've got the Texans and Giants ahead, you can breathe a little easier. Los Angeles will take one more tour of the division, and a division title is still very much in play.

Justin Herbert and the Chargers earned a key AFC win over the Bengals on Sunday. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Justin Herbert and the Chargers earned a key AFC win over the Bengals on Sunday. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.