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Chargers beat Bengals, spoil Joe Burrow's debut

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) completed 23 of 36 passes for 193 yards and an interception in a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday in Cincinnati. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) completed 23 of 36 passes for 193 yards and an interception in a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday in Cincinnati. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 14 (UPI) -- No. 1 overall draft pick Joe Burrow's NFL debut ended in heartbreak as the Los Angeles Chargers held on for a dramatic win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

Burrow completed 23 of 36 passes for 193 yards and an interception in the 16-13 loss Sunday in Cincinnati. The LSU product made a rookie mistake on a fourth-quarter interception, but showed impressive composure down the stretch and nearly led Cincinnati to a comeback victory.

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"At the end of the day, I made too many mistakes to win the game," Burrow told reporters. "We just didn't make enough plays."

Burrow connected with wide receiver A.J. Green for what appeared to be a 3-yard touchdown with 12 seconds remaining, but the play was nullified due to an offensive pass interference penalty called on Green. The score would have given the Bengals a 19-16 advantage. Bengals kicker Randy Bullock followed the play with a missed field goal, which gave the win to the Chargers instead of forcing overtime.

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"We weren't playing well on offense, but we started to get a rhythm going," Burrow said. "I thought we were going to win the game...but things didn't fall our way. We just made too many mistakes."

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Burrow gave himself a "D" letter grade for his rookie debut.

Neither offensive could get going early on. The game began with six consecutive punts before Burrow ran for a 23-yard touchdown with 2:30 remaining in the first quarter. Chargers kicker Michael Badgley made two second-quarter field goals to make the score 7-6 at halftime.

Bullock made two field goals in the third quarter to increase the Bengals lead to 13-6. The Chargers then put together a 10-play, 55-yard scoring drive at the start of the fourth quarter. Running back Joshua Kelley scored a five-yard rushing touchdown at the end of the drive to tie the game at 13-13.

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Bengals running back Joe Mixon fumbled on the net drive. Badgley then made another field goal to give the Chargers a three-point lead with 8:59 remaining.

Burrow then marched the Bengals to the Chargers 23-yard line before he attempted to pitch the ball to running back Giovani Bernard, but the toss was picked off by Chargers defender Melvin Ingram. The Bengals then defense forced a three-and-out from the Chargers on the next drive to give the ball back to Burrow.

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The Bengals rookie orchestrated a 14-play, 84-yard drive before the late penalty and missed kick resulted in his first career loss.

"Joe is an excellent quarterback," Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. "He is young. We were getting to him early. We had a couple sacks, but he bounced back."

Chargers quarterback Tyrod Taylor completed 16 of 30 passes for 208 yards in the win. Chargers running back Austin Ekeler had 19 carries for 84 rushing yards. Joey Bosa, Uchenna Nwosu and Jerry Tillery each had sacks in the win.

Mixon had 19 carries for 69 rushing yards in the loss. Green had five catches for 51 yards for the Bengals.

"[Burrow] kept his composure and moved on to the next snap," Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. "He made some critical plays down the stretch that put us in position to win or tie the game."

The Chargers host the Kansas City Chiefs at 4:25 p.m. EDT Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. The Bengals battle the Cleveland Browns at 8:20 p.m. EDT Thursday at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.

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