By Pat Gainor, Staff Writer
The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Baltimore Ravens 24-17 in the Wild Card round of the NFL Playoffs on Sunday night, taking down their rival for the second straight week and advancing to the Divisional Round for the second straight year.
After defeating the Ravens in Week 18 to secure home field for this week’s game, Cincinnati took the field once again, looking to bounce their rivals from the playoffs and hoping to put together another run to the Super Bowl. Baltimore would be without their star quarterback Lamar Jackson, who announced on Twitter that he would not be playing for his own safety and started backup Tyler Huntley in his place.
The Bengals started off the game with a field goal and, after a Huntley interception to Akeen Davis-Gaither, quickly took a 9-0 lead. However, a 10-minute, 75 yard touchdown drive and a fumble by Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst gave Baltimore life. After cutting the lead to two and threatening to score from Cincinnati’s four-yard-line, the Bengals managed to hold Baltimore to a field goal as time expired to go down 10-9 at the half.
After the Ravens punted on their first possession of the second half, Cincinnati marched down the field and scored off a QB sneak by Burrow to take a 17-10 lead. But Baltimore would respond with a 41-yard touchdown pass to DeMarcus Robinson to tie the game up at 17. The Bengals’ next drive would stall, and Baltimore marched down the field with a chance to take the lead late in the fourth.
But, on a third and goal from Cincinnati’s one-yard-line, Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson would strip Tyler Huntley on a QB sneak, knocking the ball right into the hands of defensive lineman Sam Hubbard. Hubbard, a Cincinnati native and Ohio State grad, returned the ball 98 yards for the go-ahead touchdown–the second-longest defensive touchdown in playoff history behind James Harrison’s 101-yard pick six in Super Bowl XLIII.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” said Hubbard after the game. “You can’t even dream that one up. It was pretty special, but I was just glad to see the looks on my teammate’s faces because that was…a hard-fought game, and to make the play and be the guy to come through is an amazing feeling.”
The Ravens would not get a chance like that one again. Their next two drives would lead to punts, and their final shot was a last second lob that graced the fingertips of receiver James Proche that fell incomplete, ending the game.
“It’s special. There’s such a tremendous history here. You don’t take anything for granted in this league,” said Bengals coach Zac Taylor, comparing this game and their wild card win against the Raiders last year. “At this point, it really doesn’t matter what seed you are. Every game is going to be a dogfight, and we knew that, and we were going to get their best shot and we knew that. Our guys found a way to win. Is it different than last year? Winning’s just fun.”
Burrow went 23/32 for 209 yards, a touchdown pass and a touchdown run. Ja’Marr Chase led all receivers with nine catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. The Bengals defense finished with two sacks and an interception alongside Hubbard’s touchdown, deemed “the fumble in the jungle.” Cincinnati now travels to Buffalo to take on the Bills, a fateful rematch after Damar Hamlin’s collapse just two weeks ago.
Chargers 30, Jaguars 31: What many considered to be the most anticipated game of the wild card round certainly wasn’t very wild for Trevor Lawrence in the first half. The former first overall pick threw four interceptions in the first half, three of them to cornerback Asante Samuel Jr, as the Chargers easily jumped out to a 27-0 lead in the second quarter. But much like the regular season, Lawrence and the Jags charged back, outscoring the Chargers 28-3 (coincidence?) before a gutsy jet sweep to runningback Travis Etienne set up the game winning field goal. This 27-point comeback is the third largest in NFL history and well deserving of celebratory Waffle House after the game.
Dolphins 31, Bills 34: This game was less about the Dolphins (without starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa) nearly beating the Bills and more about the Bills beating themselves. After jumping out to a 17-0 lead, Buffalo’s offense went ice cold for two interceptions and a strip sack returned for a touchdown to give Miami an improbable 24-20 lead just two minutes into the second half. A late interception by third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson gave the Bills life, and they would hold off their division rivals in the closing minutes for the wild-card win.
Giants 31, Vikings 24: The clock struck midnight on the Minnesota Vikings’ improbable season. After an opening drive touchdown, the Giants would score 17 straight and stay one step ahead of the Vikings for most of the game. However, a drop by Giants receiver Isaiah Hodgins and a terrible roughing the passer call on Dexter Lawrence II would give the Vikings a chance to win or tie once again. However, the magic would fizzle out as they turned the ball over in the most Vikings way possible: a three-yard checkdown on fourth and eight.