NASHVILLE — The Cincinnati Bengals final week broke their 31-year playoff drought, and with a younger, explosive offense, appeared like this yr’s darkish horse contender.
And now they formally are. The No. 4-seeded Bengals overcame 9 sacks and 6 penalties to shock the top-seeded Tennessee Titans, 19-16, when rookie kicker Evan McPherson kicked his fourth and ultimate subject objective Saturday, a 52-yarder that break up the uprights as time expired.
The Bengals, who had three interceptions of their very own, will face the winner of the Chiefs-Bills recreation on Sunday, and can journey to both Kansas City or Buffalo.
“We don’t know what we don’t know,” quarterback Joe Burrow stated of the crew’s youthfulness, an acknowledgment that he may have much less expertise irrespective of who his crew faces in the A.F.C. championship recreation subsequent week, whether or not his counterpart is Patrick Mahomes, 26, of Kansas City or Josh Allen, 25, of Buffalo. Burrow, 25, is in simply his second N.F.L. season, an expertise hole that separates him from his friends.
“Tomorrow morning might be a different story, but right now, I feel great,” Burrow stated.
Despite the many hits, Burrow threw for 348 yards on 28 of 37 passing with one interception. His counterpart on Saturday, Ryan Tannehill, suffered only one sack, however was doomed by three interceptions.
Statistically, the recreation made no sense. Burrow was fabulous when he had time to spot his fleet-footed receivers, finishing 28 of 37 passes for 348 yards. The Titans blanketed Ja’Marr Chase, who nonetheless managed to haul in 5 passes for 109 yards. Receiver Tee Higgins and tight finish C.J. Uzomah every had seven receptions.
Burrow, although, was sacked repeatedly as the Titans protection ran in, round and thru the Bengals’ porous offensive line. Tennessee defensive finish Jeffery Simmons led the cost with three sacks of Burrow.
“That one was really, really hard,” Burrow stated of the stress he confronted all through the recreation.
It was the Bengals protection, although, that in the end saved the day, intercepting Tannehill on the Titans’ first and final performs of the recreation, and as soon as in between. The ultimate decide was most vital because it got here with simply 20 seconds remaining.
On a drive that started with 2:43 left in the recreation, Tannehill slowly marched the Titans down the subject attempting to get the crew in subject objective place. Then, on the fifth play of the collection, on third-and-5 from the Titan’ 40-yard line, Tannehill’s go was tipped by cornerback Eli Apple and hauled in by linebacker Logan Wilson.
Burrow, who had a breakout season throwing for greater than 4,600 yards, received one other likelihood to add to his résumé by stealing a second playoff win. From the Bengals’ 47-yard line, Burrow rapidly hit Chase to transfer the ball to the Titans’ 35 and into respectable subject objective place.
The Bengals drained a couple of extra seconds off the clock earlier than McPherson linked on the game-winner.
Had Cincinnati’s offensive line been extra profitable, the Bengals might have gained the recreation simply as the crew held the ball for about seven minutes longer than the Titans over the course of thee night time, regardless of the return of Tennessee’s stellar operating again Derrick Henry from an absence of greater than two months.
Indeed, the recreation received off to an auspicious begin for the Bengals. On the first play from scrimmage, Cincinnati security Jessie Bates intercepted Tannehill. With nice subject place, the Bengals regarded poised to strike. But in a sample that outlined the recreation, Burrow was sacked on the first play from scrimmage. A delay-of-game penalty stalled the promising drive and the Bengals settled for a subject objective, not a landing.
Cincinnati kicked three of them in the first half, and went into the locker room forward, 9-6.
The Titans, in the meantime, regarded rusty after a bye week. Tannehill missed receivers, was sacked, rushed throws, and Henry — who completed with 62 yards on 20 carries — didn’t appear to assist a lot.
The Titans engineered a stable drive halfway by the second quarter. Tannehill linked along with his two finest receivers, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. On first-and-goal, Henry lined up in the wildcat, took the snap and scored, to the delight of the house crowd that had been calling his identify.
Henry and the Titans failed to rating on a 2-point try, nonetheless. In the finish, these 2 additional factors wouldn’t have mattered as a result of the Bengals’ ultimate subject objective was simply sufficient.