What We Saw: Week 13

Diontae Johnson saved the Steelers' season with his two 4th quarter TD receptions

Chargers @ Bengals

Final Score: Chargers 41, Bengals 22

Writer: Sami Alsado (@samialsado on Twitter)

 

A marquee matchup between two of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the league with two teams fighting for playoff position was a wild one. This was a game that really demonstrated the power of momentum. The Chargers stormed out to a 24-0 lead behind dominant downfield passing wins and capitalizing on careless errors by the Bengals. The Bengals then came back, scoring 22 unanswered, to make it a 2 point game. However, while driving on the Chargers’ side of the field and ready to take the lead, Joe Mixon had an unforced fumble that was returned for a scoop and score. This massive momentum swing ultimately sealed the game as the Bengals were unable to score again as the Chargers rallied off 17 straight points to seal it.

 

Los Angeles Chargers

 

Quarterbacks

 

Justin Herbert  26/35, 3 TD, INT | 1 carry, 6 yards

 

Justin Herbert is a classic gunslinger. A quarterback who is unwilling to accept the failure of a sack or a throwaway. A quarterback with ideal arm strength in an offense that loves to keep a defense honest testing the boundaries with their running backs and the deep ball with their large jump ball target Mike Williams. When you can supplement that formula with the speedy downfield Jalen Guyton there is a lot of potential for Herbert to go off – and he did:

 

 

The Chargers consistently and creatively used Herbert’s athleticism to roll him out, giving their downfield options space to win downfield. Herbert placed deep balls to both Guyton and Mike Williams in prime position for his receivers to win – and they did. There was a lull in the game where the Chargers’ offense got stunted by the Bengals pass rush as Herbert continued to try to push the ball downfield but Herbert got right back on track by hitting Guyton for a 33-yard pass that set up an Ekeler one-yard score.

Herbert had it all working in this one and it’s easy to see why the Chargers are so optimistic for their future.

 

Running Backs

 

Austin Ekeler 14 carries, 59 yards, TD | 5 targets, 5 receptions, 45 yards

Justin Jackson 6 carries, 15 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 6 yards

 

Austin Ekeler did his usual in this game, pacing the Chargers with steady carries on the outside whilst continuing to dominate in the passing game. Ekeler is an incredibly consistent running back and secured another 100+ all-purpose yards day with a goal-line one-yard TD to boot.

 

 

It must be noted that Ekeler did fumble twice in this game which almost let the Bengals right back into this one, but the fumbles didn’t affect his playing time and his second-half goal-line TD makes me believe the double fumbles were anomalous.

Ekeler did come up gimpy at the end of the game with a leg injury that should be monitored as next week approaches.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Mike Williams  7 targets, 5 receptions, 110 yards

Jalen Guyton 4 targets, 4 receptions, 90 yards, TD | 1 carry, -1 yard

Keenan Allen 8 targets, 5 receptions, 34 yards, 2 TD

Jared Cook  4 targets, 3 receptions, 29 yards

Donald Parham Jr.  4 targets, 2 receptions, 3 yards

 

This was a pretty interesting day for the Chargers’ receiving options as each of Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Keenan Allen, and even to a lesser degree Jared Cook, found space to show off their skills.

Mike Williams is unquestionably in the discussion for one of the best jump ball downfield receiving options in the game. Just look at the faith Herbert puts in him to just play the throwback recess game of jackpot lobbing it up to Williams on this one:

 

 

Jalen Guyton more than doubled his season-high yardage total, securing 90 total yards and a TD (GIF in Herbert section above). Guyton used his speed to streak past Bengals defenders multiple times in this game including one 33 yard reception which was stopped at the one-yard line almost, netting him his second TD. Given this is a clear outlier for Guyton it’s hard to make much of him being the top fantasy WR for this team today but if the Chargers can continue to incorporate his speed downfield it could signal real trouble for opposing defenses.

Keenan Allen caught both of the Chargers’ first two touchdowns as he made himself a big target in-between zone coverages in the red zone for Justin Herbert. These two TDs matched his season total. We all know Allen is a skilled route runner and security blanket for the young QB, and he showed those skills off on those plays but didn’t get much work outside of that.

 

 

Jared Cook continues to perform as the underneath receiver for Herbert though he didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy today.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

 

Quarterbacks

 

Joe Burrow: 24/40, 300 yards, TD, 2 INT | 1 rush, 6 yards, TD

 

Joe Burrow had a volatile day today. As always with Burrow, he is a proven competitor with an insatiable desire to win but he was greatly limited by his supporting cast in this game.

In the first quarter with the Chargers already up 9-0 Burrow found Ja’Marr Chase on a ball about 30 yards downfield with Chase breaking past defenders on what could have been a 71 yard TD, but instead Chase bobbled the ball up into the air and into the hands of the Chargers:

 

 

Burrow’s other INT was a ball he forced into a nonexistent window in the red zone with the Bengals pressing. Though the final stat line looks bad, Burrow’s follies today were more based on his teammates than any deficiency he showed.

Burrow was also limited by his O-Line in this one that saw the team have two fill-in starters today who were either beat or penalized throughout the game, which resulted in six Chargers sacks. On one of those pressures, Burrow suffered a dislocated pinky that he believes had him lose zip on his throws through this game, though he claims it won’t prevent him from playing in the future.

On a brighter note, Burrow again used his legs to run in from the six as he scrambled around a scattered pocket, showing the creativity and mobility that we saw more of last season. Further, his connection and faith in Tee Higgins continued to grow today as Higgins often found space and was delivered high catchable passes for him to corral, his specialty. Burrow will surely have better days ahead, though he’ll need some help from the now reeling Ja’Marr Chase and his O-Line to keep performing at the level he was the last couple of weeks.

 

Running Backs

 

Joe Mixon: 19 carries, 54 yards, 1 TD | 1 target

Samaje Perine: 5 carries, 36 yards | 2 target, 2 reception, 5 yards

 

As with Burrow, Mixon was stunted at the line a lot more than he had been in recent weeks, likely due to fill-in starters at both C and RT. It is difficult to take too much away from this uninspiring stat-line as we know Mixon is a much better runner than he showed today when he has a healthy O-Line.

His worst play of the game came on a critical drive down 22-24 early in the 4th quarter when he simply dropped the ball after receiving the handoff, leading to a scoop and score:

 

 

Mixon fumbling is a rare occurrence, but him outright dropping the ball is a rarity which really exemplifies how strange of a debacle this game was for the Bengals.

Mixon was able to salvage his day with a patient and explosive six yard TD run:

 

 

It is interesting that Mixon wasn’t utilized in the passing game much in this one after developing more of a role there in recent weeks when he secured 4-5 passes in the last four games.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Tee Higgins: 14 targets, 9 receptions, 138 yards, TD

Ja’Marr Chase: 8 targets, 5 receptions, 52 yards

Tyler Boyd: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 85 yards

C.J. Uzomah: 6 targets, 3 receptions, 20 yards

 

This Bengals passing game has had a fascinating season and this week saw the Higgins > Chase trend continue on the stat sheet. It is clear the Bengals have two highly talented young WR’s in Higgins and Chase, and they both have room to thrive in this offense, but Chase’s recent return to preseason drops form is certainly concerning and it created a huge swing in this game.

On a play that could have been a 70 yard TD, Ja’Marr Chase bobbled a streak into the air that turned a great throw into an interception:

 

 

I know I linked this GIF above but this was a massive swing in the game and really goes to show that even though Chase disappointed fantasy owners today he was an easy catch away from having a 122 yard, one TD outing. As we saw with the swing from preseason to the regular season – Ja’Marr can recover from this and very likely will soon but there is no doubt that the drops are becoming an issue for Chase.

Furthermore, Tee Higgins continued his emergence from last week by leading the team in targets, receptions, and yardage. His production is likely indicative of his improved health as the season has progressed and Burrow’s increased willingness to just toss up 50/50 balls to his large framed young stud:

 

 

Higgins has elite jump ball skills which he has shown off in subsequent weeks. He has begun to get more looks on short-yardage situations which could signal the potential for him to continue leading this receiving core. Higgins did get banged up in this one when he was dragged down by a horse-collar tackle, but he remained in the game, albeit while limping. It is hard to conclude the future of this group as they all should have their weeks but now with two straight weeks of Higgins > Chase, there is a trend emerging.

Tyler Boyd got more work in this game as the Bengals got caught down big early. Boyd is a surehanded receiver who seems to produce every time he is called upon. However, his floor and ceiling are too low to recommend in all but the deepest of formats. Results like this may happen throughout the season but predicting when it will happen is a difficult task.

 

Sami Alsado (@samialsado on Twitter)

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