Quarterback Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals is sacked by outside linebacker Jarret Johnson #96 of the San Diego Chargers during a Wild Card Playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on Jan. 5, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Bengals upset by Chargers 27-10 in first round of NFL playoffs

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CINCINNATI (AP) -- Andy Dalton and the Bengals still can't do anything right when it's playoff time.

San Diego took advantage of Dalton's three turnovers in the second half on Sunday, pulling away to a 27-10 victory that extended the Bengals' stretch of playoff misery to 23 years and counting.

It was a shocking finish for the Bengals (11-6), who won the AFC North, went unbeaten at home and had their top-ranked defense for the playoffs. With everything in their favor, they fell apart, getting outscored 20-0 in the second half.

"Whatever you do during the regular season doesn't matter once you get to the playoffs," said Dalton, who is 0-3 in the postseason. "It's disappointing. All the good stuff we did this year, then to come out and not win this game kind of hurts."

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Dalton, who has a trilogy of bad playoff games, fumbled and threw two interceptions in the second half. Dalton finished 29 of 51 for 334 yards with a below-average passer rating of 67.

In three first-round playoff losses, Dalton has thrown one touchdown pass and six interceptions.

The Chargers pressured Dalton in the second half, Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle pointed out.

"We kept Andy on his heels and got him off his spot," Weddle said. "We hit him a bunch and forced big turnovers."

Dalton wasn't the only one with a big gaffe. Rookie running back Giovani Bernard fumbled at the San Diego 3-yard line after a catch in the first half.

While the Bengals made four turnovers, their highly-rated defense couldn't force any. San Diego outplayed the Bengals on both sides of the ball.

"We asked a lot of our defense today and they came up with big turnovers," said Charger quarterback Philip Rivers, who was 12 of 16 for 128 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. "We didn't turn it over, which is always big in the playoffs." 

The Bengals now have the sixth-longest streak of playoff futility in NFL history, stretching all the way back to the 1990 season. They've lost their playoff opener three straight years, matching a league record as well, according to STATS LLC.

Coach Marvin Lewis fell to 0-5 in the playoffs during his 11 seasons as head coach, but is expected to stick around and get another chance to try again.

With Rivers making accurate throws in the chilling rain, the Chargers (10-7) won their fifth in a row, beating the last team that had knocked them off. They'll play next Sunday in Denver, which has the AFC's top seed.

Combined with the Saints' victory over the Eagles on Saturday night, the two No. 6 playoff seeds won for the first time since 2010, when the Packers won the Super Bowl.

And the Chargers are thinking: Why not us?

"We talked all week about this being the fifth round," Rivers said, referring to their five-game winning streak. "So the sixth round will be in Denver next week."

This one was a reversal from the last time they met. The Bengals forced three turnovers for a 17-10 win in San Diego on Dec. 1, which became the Chargers' turning point.

The Bengals got the rematch at home, where they had scored 49, 41, 41, 42 and 34 points in their last five regular season games.

But they were held to their second-lowest scoring output of the season. They managed only two field goals in a 17-6 loss at Cleveland on Sept. 29.

The Chargers stayed with a conservative offense that sometimes grated on Rivers but ultimately worked.

The Chargers ran for a season-high 196 yards. They've rushed for at least 144 yards in each of their past five games.

"The way our defense was playing, as long as we didn't have a disaster and we made plays when they were there, we were going to win this game,"  said Rivers, who completed a team-record and NFL-best 69.5 percent of his passes this season.

Rivers was only 5 of 6 in the first half for 48 yards with San Diego frequently backed inside its 20-yard line to start drives.

The Bengals held a 10-7 halftime lead on Dalton's 4-yard scoring toss to tight end Jermaine Gresham and Mike Nugent's 46-yard field goal.

But Rivers completed all of his six passes during a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter that put the Chargers ahead to stay, with his 4-yard pass to Ladarius Green giving San Diego a 14-10 lead.

Dalton then made the mistakes that turned the game, allowing the Chargers to pull ahead. Ronnie Brown finished it off with a 58-yard touchdown run, the longest TD run against the Bengals in their playoff history.

NOTES: Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones caught eight passes for 130 yards, a club playoff record. A.J. Green was limited to three catches for 34 yards ... It was San Diego's first playoff win since a 23-17 overtime victory over the Colts in 2008 and its first road playoff win in an open-air stadium since a 17-13 victory in Pittsburgh for the 1994 AFC title.

 

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