San Diego • With a blue-collar, workmanlike approach, the Cincinnati Bengals knocked the San Diego Chargers back to reality while protecting their two-game lead in the AFC North.
The Bengals ran for 164 yards. They held Philip Rivers to just 252 yards passing. They forced three turnovers and preyed on a big coverage breakdown.
"Down and dirty," cornerback Adam Jones said after the Bengals beat the Chargers 17-10 on Sunday, holding San Diego's high-powered offense to a season low in points and wearing down its defense.
Andy Dalton threw a go-ahead, 21-yard TD pass to wide-open A.J. Green late in the third quarter that allowed the Bengals (8-4), who were coming off their bye, to keep a two-game lead over Baltimore.
"That's the main thing. We're not playing just to make the playoffs," Jones said. "We're playing for the bye. We played hard and physical on defense. If we keep playing hard and smart and we're going to be a real, real good team."
San Diego (5-7) lost the momentum it gained with a thrilling 41-38 comeback win at Kansas City a week earlier. The Chargers' slim playoff hopes dwindled after their fourth loss in five games.
"You score 10 points, you are going to lose most of the time," said Rivers, who completed 23 of 37 passes for 252 yards. "That's a good defense. We just weren't consistent enough."
Dalton joined Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks to start their careers with three straight 3,000-yard seasons. He was 14-for-23 for 190 yards, giving him 3,144 for the season.