The historic decision turned on something as mundane as an offside penalty.
Those extra yards convinced Chargers coach Anthony Lynn to allow kicker Michael Badgley to attempt a 59-yard field goal on the final play of the first half Sunday.
Well, it was those extra yards — plus Badgley himself — doing the convincing.
“After that play, that young man was pulling on my tail,” Lynn said. “ ‘Coach, let me kick. Let me kick.’ I was going to let him kick it.”
Badgley converted the longest field goal in franchise history to put the Chargers up 17-12 and cap a frenzied drive over the final 20 seconds.
Starting at the Chargers’ 32-yard line, Philip Rivers passed 11 yards to Keenan Allen and 11 yards to Travis Benjamin to move the Chargers into Bengals territory.
With just one second remaining and Rivers and the offense still on the field, Cincinnati defensive lineman Jordan Willis jumped offside.
“We got the penalty, he turned around and said, ‘Hey, let’s hit this,’ ” Badgley said of Lynn. “And I got the job done. One of those situations where once it leaves your foot, you know you have a chance.”
The kick was a career long for Badgley, the rookie hitting a 57-yarder during his sophomore year at Miami. The Chargers’ previous record also was 57 yards, set by Nate Kaeding in 2008.
Despite having never connected from thatdistance, Badgley said he was confident while trotting onto the field. In pregame warmups, he hit from 60 yards while working with the other specialists.
“If you’re going out there thinking you’re gonna miss it, you probably shouldn’t be kicking it,” he said. “It was a way for us to steal some momentum at the end of the half. It was good for us to get those points.”
After halftime, Badgley added three more field goals — from 31, 32 and 45 yards — as the Chargers offense was unable to find the end zone.
For the season, he is now 14 of 15 on field goals, bringing stability to a position that had been in flux over the past two years.
“He made all of his kicks,” running back Austin Ekeler said. “That’s what we’re asking of him. Big day for him. I’m glad we finally got somebody who’s consistent because that’s what we’ve been needing.”
Badgley took over full time for the struggling Caleb Sturgis five games ago. He also kicked in two games in October when Sturgis was injured. Because of injuries and ineffectiveness, the Chargers went through four kickers in 2017.
The historic moment came after Badgley missed a regular kicking session Thursday because of the rain. The Chargers practiced that day inside the gym at Costa Mesa High.
“I stuck with my pregame routine, tried to get loose, feel good, enjoy the L.A. weather and this environment,” Badgley said. “There’s not too much wind here, usually about 70 degrees. It’s a great place to kick.”
Ekeler scored his second rushing touchdown of the season early in the second quarter by slamming his way into the end zone.
Recognized as the team’s strongest player pound-for-pound, he bullied through safety Shawn Williams and linebacker Nick Vigil at the goal line.
“It was just one of those where you gotta get low and drive,” Ekeler said. “Just power.”
He went on to explain that it was the sort of play sometimes referred to as “moosh ball.”
“You know,” Ekeler said, “you just get a little pile going and you try to move the pile.”
1,000 for Allen
Allen went over 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season on his 14-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.
The most recent Charger to have back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons was Vincent Jackson in 2008-09.
“It lets me know I’m productive,” Allen said, “and I can still do my job.”
The score also extended Allen’s career-high streak to five games with a touchdown.
Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane missed his third consecutive game as he remains away from the team because of a family matter. Mebane’s daughter, Makenna, was born Nov. 12 with Trisomy 13, a rare chromosome disorder. … Tight end Sean Culkin (back) was inactive. … The Chargers are 10-3 for the fourth time in franchise history and first time since 2009.