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Miscues do in Bengals

USA Today Sports Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton unloads the ball as Chargers linebacker Donald Butler applies pressure during Sunday’s AFC Wild Card game in Cincinnati.

The Sports Xchange

CINCINNATI — San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers didn’t have the greatest passing day of his career Sunday. He didn’t need it.

The Chargers rushed for 196 yards against the NFL’s fifth-ranked rushing defense and cruised to a 27-10 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals in an AFC wild-card playoff game Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

“We asked a lot of our defense today and they came up with three big turnovers,” said 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.”

San Diego averaged 4.9 yards per rush against a Cincinnati team that allowed just 96.5 yards on the ground during the regular season. Running back Ronnie Brown had 77 yards on eight carries, including a 58-yard touchdown run with 2:17 left to seal the victory, while Danny Woodhead had 54 yards and one touchdown, and Ryan Mathews added 52 yards on the ground.

“I think the way we’ve run the football the last month was something coming into the game,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “We know playing the Cincinnati Bengals what kind of team they are. We knew it was going to be a slugfest from the very first snap all the way through the game.”

San Diego (10-7) won for the fifth consecutive week and advances to play at top-seeded Denver (13-3) next Sunday. The Chargers and Broncos split their two meetings this season, each winning on the road.

Cincinnati outgained the Chargers, 439-318, but San Diego did not turn the ball over.

The Bengals were hoping to end a 23-year playoff drought but instead went one-and-done in the postseason for the fifth time under head coach Marvin Lewis. The Bengals went undefeated at home in the regular season but lost its third consecutive home playoff game under Lewis.

“The finality of things hurt when you lose in the playoffs,” Lewis said. “The biggest difference was turnovers. We turned the ball over, gave them points and field position, and we failed to get any on our side. It’s the difference in the football game. I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed by us.”

Dalton lost in the playoffs for the third consecutive year. He’s the only quarterback in franchise history to lead the team to three straight postseason appearances but he has had miserable performances each time. He completed 29 of 51 passes for 334 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions Sunday. The Chargers sacked Dalton three times. Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green was a non-factor in the game, catching just three passes.

“Unfortunately, the last three years, we haven’t been able to win one of these playoff games,” Dalton said. “Obviously there is going to be a lot of criticism and talk, but until you win and prove people wrong, people can say whatever they want.”

Cincinnati had won its last three games against San Diego, including 17-10 on Dec. 1 in San Diego. That is the last game the Chargers have lost.

“When you have a great offensive line, tight ends that will block, willing receivers to block, it makes it a whole lot easier (to run),” Woodhead said. “Those guys have worked their tails off all year. They've done it all year. Maybe it's just being seen a little more now.”