In the middle of the third quarter on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, the Cincinnati Bengals lined up for a two-point conversion with a chance to tie the score, setting the scene for the type of win that had never happened in Bengals history.
When the two-point conversion didn’t pan out, the Bengals got the ball back on the next drive and had the chance to take the lead. Early in the fourth quarter, the Bengals were in the red zone with a shot to stay in the game on the line.
Even though the Bengals trailed by 24 points in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati had multiple opportunities to snag a possible season-defining win.
After a failed two-point conversion, the most costly fumble of Bengals running back Joe Mixon’s career and one of the most confounding interceptions of quarterback Joe Burrow’s season, the Chargers beat the Bengals, 41-22. With the loss, the Bengals still haven’t overcome a 24-point deficit in franchise history.
From the moment Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was wide open down the field and tipped a potential touchdown into the hands of cornerback Michael Davis on Cincinnati’s second drive of the game, the Bengals looked like they were on their way to a blowout loss.
It was just one of the team’s disasters as the Chargers took an early 24-0 lead. For the first 20 minutes of the game, the Bengals saw all of their concerns heading into the season packaged into nine drives.
Left tackle Jonah Williams allowed a strip-sack fumble. Inexperienced offensive linemen committed penalties that ended or set back potential touchdown drives.
A Bengals team that entered the game as the least penalized team in the NFL committed two drive-changing infractions. At one point in the second quarter, the Bengals called a timeout before a two-point conversion and still took a delay of game penalty before they could snap the ball.
On defense, the Bengals switched to a zone-heavy scheme and let Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert beat them deep three times in the first half. Linebacker Logan Wilson missed most of the game with a shoulder injury, and cornerback Chidobe Awuzie was sidelined by a foot injury. Starting offensive linemen Trey Hopkins and Riley Reiff were inactive with ankle injuries.
In the middle of the second quarter, the Bengals offense finally found opportunities against a depleted Chargers secondary. With downfield throws from Burrow to wide receiver Tyler Boyd and wide receiver Tee Higgins, the Bengals cut the deficit to 24-13.
Then, late in the second half, Burrow appeared to injure his right pinky finger. On the sideline, Burrow grimaced as he attempted warm up throws. He tried taping his hand, and then he took the tape off.
When he got back in the game on the last drive of the first half, Burrow didn’t have a chance to throw the ball downfield. Instead of attempting a Hail Mary, head coach Zac Taylor chose to let the clock run out.
The Chargers had a 24-13 lead at halftime, but a less-than-100% Burrow responded by leading consecutive scoring drives. With 7:10 in the third quarter, the Bengals already were a two-point conversion away from tying the score, trailing 24-22.
But the Bengals didn’t convert, and the magic ran out. Early in the fourth quarter, Mixon fumbled a carry without any contact by the Chargers defense. Los Angeles cornerback Tevaughn Campbell returned the fumble for a touchdown.
Following a three-and-out by the Bengals, Herbert carved up the Bengals defense with two first down completions, setting up a touchdown. Twelve minutes after the Bengals trailed 24-22, they trailed 38-22.
The Bengals had a chance to cut their deficit to one score with eight minutes left in the game. On a play from the Chargers 15-yard line, Burrow lobbed a pass into double coverage. Chargers cornerback Chris Harris easily picked off the pass, ending the Bengals shot at a miracle comeback.
For the Bengals, there was no second comeback from a two-score deficit. Cincinnati lost its chance to win three consecutive games for the first time since 2015. The penalties, the turnovers and the miscues led to a double-digit loss in a gameTaylor called the most important of the season.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Bengals fumble away chance at historic comeback vs. Chargers