W2W4: Five things for Bengals at Chargers

December, 1, 2013
12/01/13
8:55
AM ET
SAN DIEGO -- The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the best running back tandems in the NFL in BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard.

Green-Ellis is the bruiser, with 522 yards and two touchdowns this season. And Bernard, a rookie out of North Carolina selected in the second round of this year’s draft, is the quick, change-of-pace back.

Bernard has 809 yards from scrimmage, including 464 rushing yards (4.4 per carry) and 42 receptions for 345 yards. Benard has a total of seven touchdowns.

“They’ve got a great one-two punch,” Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano said. “I’ve always been a fan of Green-Ellis, a guy that just pounds it in there. And then to have a complementary back that makes it a little bit different -- they both pound the ball and get after you.”

As always, the key for the Chargers will be limiting the damage by these two running backs on first and second down, so the defense can get after Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton on third down in passing situations.

“That has to be the No. 1 priority,” San Diego pass-rusher Thomas Kaiser said. “Because we’re not going to get to the pass rush if they can run down our throats. So there’s a huge emphasis this week on stopping both runners.”

Don’t let Green wreck the game: Pagano calls them game wreckers, and for good reason. Playmakers like Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green can wreck a game for the opponent by making explosive plays. Containing Green (67 receptions, 1,020 yards, 6 TDs) won’t be easy, particularly with San Diego holding a defensive back competition for starting jobs this week. Expect Green to see a lot of double coverage so he can’t pick on San Diego’s smallish cornerbacks.

Pressure Dalton: In the past three games, Dalton’s thrown eight picks versus just five touchdowns. He’s been sacked 10 times during that stretch, posting a pedestrian passer rating of 55.7. The Bengals are 1-2 in their past three games. If they stop the run and force Dalton to beat them through the air, good things will happen for the Chargers.

Grab a lead: If the Chargers can get a lead early, then they can control the tempo of the game and make the Bengals play catch-up on the road. Cincinnati is 2-4 on the road this season, so put some pressure on the Bengals on the Cincinnati’s longest road trip of the season by taking an early lead.

Home cooking? The Chargers are the first team to have an NFL blackout this season, with more than 5,000 tickets remaining heading into this weekend’s contest. San Diego plays four of its last five games at home as the team makes a push for the playoffs at 5-6. But will playing at home give the Chargers an advantage if the stadium is littered with empty seats? The crowd at Qualcomm Stadium has to show up and provide energy.

Ajirotutu’s time: Slot receiver Eddie Royal (chest/toe) has been downgraded from questionable to doubtful for Sunday’s game. That means that rookie Keenan Allen could see some time in the slot, and last week’s hero, Seyi Ajirotutu, could see more time on the field on offense. Ajirotutu believes he can make more plays like his winning touchdown catch against Kansas City last week if given the opportunity, and today could be his chance.

Eric D. Williams

ESPN San Diego Chargers reporter

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