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 last area aim 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-Payments sport on Sunday, and can journey to both Kansas Metropolis or Buffalo.
“We don’t know what we don’t know,” quarterback Joe Burrow mentioned of the staff’s youthfulness, an acknowledgment that he can have much less expertise regardless of who his staff faces within the A.F.C. championship sport subsequent week, whether or not his counterpart is Patrick Mahomes, 26, of Kansas Metropolis 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 could be a unique story, however proper now, I really feel nice,” Burrow mentioned.
Regardless of the numerous 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 sport made no sense. Burrow was fabulous when he had time to identify 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 because 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 actually, actually arduous,” Burrow mentioned of the strain he confronted all through the sport.
The Titans turned the fifth staff to notch 9 sacks in playoff sport, becoming a member of Kansas Metropolis (1994), the Browns (1987), the 49ers (1985) and Payments (1967).
It was the Bengals protection, although, that in the end saved the day, intercepting Tannehill on the Titans’ first and final performs of the sport, and as soon as in between. The ultimate choose was most vital because it got here with simply 20 seconds remaining.
On a drive that started with 2:43 left within the sport, Tannehill slowly marched the Titans down the sphere making an attempt to get the staff in area aim place. Then, on the fifth play of the sequence, on third-and-5 from the Titan’ 40-yard line, Tannehill’s move 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, obtained one other likelihood so as to add to his résumé by stealing a second playoff win. From the Bengals’ 47-yard line, Burrow shortly hit Chase to maneuver the ball to the Titans’ 35 and into first rate area aim place.
The Bengals drained just a few extra seconds off the clock earlier than McPherson related on the game-winner.
Had Cincinnati’s offensive line been extra profitable, the Bengals could have received the sport simply because the staff held the ball for about seven minutes longer than the Titans over the course of thee evening, regardless of the return of Tennessee’s stellar operating again Derrick Henry from an absence of greater than two months.
Certainly, the sport obtained off to an auspicious begin for the Bengals. On the primary play from scrimmage, Cincinnati security Jessie Bates intercepted Tannehill. With nice area place, the Bengals appeared poised to strike. However in a sample that outlined the sport, Burrow was sacked on the primary play from scrimmage. A delay-of-game penalty stalled the promising drive and the Bengals settled for a area aim, not a landing.
Cincinnati kicked three of them within the first half, and went into the locker room forward, 9-6.
The Titans, in the meantime, appeared 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 related along with his two greatest receivers, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. On first-and-goal, Henry lined up within the wildcat, took the snap and scored, to the delight of the house crowd that had been calling his title.
Henry and the Titans failed to attain on a 2-point try, nevertheless. Ultimately, these 2 further factors wouldn’t have mattered as a result of the Bengals’ last area aim was simply sufficient.