At long last, the Cincinnati Bengals are playoff winners.
Cincinnati defeated the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19 in Saturday's AFC Wild Card Round at Paul Brown Stadium. Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase led the way for the victors, who won a playoff game for the first time since the 1990 season.
A solid showing from Derek Carr was not enough for the Raiders, who remain without a postseason victory since the 2002 campaign.
Las Vegas had an opportunity to force overtime in the final two minutes, but Carr's fourth-down throw near Cincinnati's end zone was intercepted by Germaine Pratt.
Notable Player Stats
- Joe Burrow, QB, CIN: 24-of-34 passing for 244 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs
- Ja'Marr Chase, WR, CIN: 9 catches for 116 yards
- C.J. Uzomah, TE, CIN: 6 catches for 64 yards, 1 TD
- Derek Carr, QB, LV: 29-of-54 passing for 310 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
- Zay Jones, WR, LV: 5 catches for 61 yards, 1 TD
- Josh Jacobs, RB, LV: 13 carries for 83 yards; 4 catches for 44 yards
Joe Burrow's Fast Start Enough for Bengals
While relying on someone to be a franchise savior is a lot to ask, these are the moments the Bengals selected Burrow for with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2020 NFL draft.
He looked more than ready for the challenge during Cincinnati's opening drive as he targeted Chase down the field until he found C.J. Uzomah for the game's first touchdown. It was something of a statement for the young signal-caller in his first playoff game after he announced himself as one of the best in the league during his second regular season.
While the Bengals failed to completely put the game away early by settling for field goals with short fields after a turnover and special teams blunder from Las Vegas, Burrow continued his excellence by fitting throws through tight windows and evading pressure with his legs.
His second touchdown pass came as he scrambled to the right and unleashed a throw to Tyler Boyd in the back of the end zone right before stepping out of bounds on a play that featured an errant whistle but still stood in controversial fashion.
To Las Vegas' credit, its defense bounced back in the third quarter and kept the Bengals out of the end zone to remain well within striking distance. It also put Burrow firmly under the spotlight for the fourth quarter, especially after Daniel Carlson's third field goal cut the lead to seven.
Even when Burrow responded with a monster third-down conversion to Chase and another strike to his No. 1 wide receiver to get into scoring range, the home team once again had to settle for a field goal. It at least pushed the advantage to two scores again, but there would have been far less doubt if even one of Evan McPherson's four field goals turned into a touchdown.
It turns out that was enough thanks to a strong showing from Cincinnati's defense, but the offense will need to convert more of its chances to continue advancing in later rounds.
Missed Chances, Mistakes Cost Raiders
While the Raiders came in as underdogs on the road, few teams entered the playoffs with more momentum.
After all, Las Vegas won its final four regular-season games to rescue its playoff hopes after it looked nothing like a postseason team with a 6-7 start. However, that momentum was nowhere to be found for much of a first half that was defined by missed opportunities and self-inflicted mistakes as visitors fell behind by double digits early.
Carr's fumble on Trey Hendrickson's strip-sack set the Bengals up with a short field, as did a 3-and-out after Peyton Barber grabbed a kickoff as it was heading out of bounds at his own 2-yard line.
NFL Research @NFLResearch
The Raiders & Bengals have combined to make 8 field goals today, tying the single-game NFL playoff record most recently matched in the Steelers-Broncos Divisional Round matchup in the 2015 postseason<br><br>This is the first playoff game in NFL history in which each team made 4+ FGs
The Raiders also stalled for multiple field goals on promising drives and appeared well on their way to a blowout loss, but Carr turned things around right before intermission with an 80-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Zay Jones. That cut the halftime deficit to 20-13, and, perhaps for the first time all game, put some apprehension in the crowd.
That apprehension continued when Josh Jacobs found success between the tackles with injuries to Hendrickson and Larry Ogunjobi along Cincinnati's defensive front, but the Raiders continued to undercut their own comeback efforts by settling for field goals instead of touchdowns throughout the game.
Las Vegas had plenty of opportunities, especially in the second half when its defense kept Burrow and Co. out of the end zone, and it created another one when Carr found DeSean Jackson for a key fourth-down conversion. Still, even that drive ended in another field goal and the offenses continued to mirror each other with field goals instead of touchdowns.
It was only fitting that the game ended on yet another missed opportunity in scoring position for the Raiders, and Carr's final throw was intercepted right outside the Bengals' end zone.
The Bengals advanced to the divisional round and will play the top-seeded Tennessee Titans if the favored Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills win their games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots, respectively.