On Saturday evening, Paul Brown Stadium was absolutely rocking as the Cincinnati Bengals hosted a playoff game for the first time since the 2015 season.
Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase performed in the playoffs, just as advertised. Burrow completed over 70% of his passes and tossed a pair of touchdowns. Chase was his favorite target, with nine catches for 119 yards.
To open the game, the Las Vegas Raiders quieted the stadium as they converted two third downs on their first drive, but Mike Hilton knocked the pass out of the air on their third. This led to a field goal attempt from Daniel Carlson, which he hit from 47 yards. With the kick, the Raiders had the first lead of the game, up 3-0 with 9:23 to go in the first quarter.
Burrow went to Chase early and often on the Bengals’ first drive. Targeting Chase, Burrow was three of four for 37 yards. But Burrow went to C.J. Uzomah once they got into the red zone, throwing a laser to the tight end for a 7-yard touchdown.
Uzomah, who is one of four Bengals on the current roster that was on the team the last time the Bengals were in the playoffs, put the Bengals ahead 7-0 after the extra point. The Bengals took their first lead after the first drive with 4:30 remaining in the first quarter.
Trey Hendrickson got the Bengals the ball back quickly. He forced a fumble in the backfield, and Larry Ogunjobi returned it to the Raiders’ 15-yard line.
The Bengals couldn’t capitalize completely on the fumble, but Evan McPherson got a 31-yard field goal with 1:15 left in the first quarter to give the Bengals a 10-3 lead.
The defense did a great job of giving the Bengals the ball back with great field position, and a 37-yard lob to Chase got the Bengals back in the red zone. But the Bengals got stopped again and settled for a 30-yard field goal.
With 10:20 remaining in the half, the Bengals had a 13-3 lead.
That said, Josh Jacobs was the Raiders’ best player on offense, one that finally came alive in the second quarter. On the Raiders’ next drive, he had two carries for 49 yards to start the possession after only having 13 yards on his first five carries. The Bengals kept the damage to a third-and-eight in the red zone, which the Raiders failed to convert. Carlson hit a 28-yard field goal, and the Raiders still trailed 13-6 with 7:55 to go until halftime.
The Bengals got the ball back once again and drove for another touchdown. The Bengals ended the drive in the red zone for the fourth straight possession, and Burrow scrambled until Tyler Boyd broke free in the end zone.
The Bengals took a 20-6 lead with 1:51 remaining in the half.
The Raiders quickly drove down the field to get one final score before the half. Derek Carr pushed the ball all the way down to the red zone and found Zay Jones for their first touchdown of the game. Even though they finally got a touchdown, the Raiders still trailed 20-13 at halftime.
At the half, Burrow already had 146 passing yards and two passing touchdowns. In the showdown in Las Vegas, Burrow had 148 yards and one touchdown in the entire Week 11 game.
After getting the ball to start the second half, the Bengals got back into scoring position. A long pass to Chase was negated after highly questionable officiating, so the Bengals were forced to settle for a 43-yard field goal. McPherson nailed the kick, and the Bengals extended their lead to 23-13 with 10:56 remaining in the third quarter.
The two teams traded punts, and the Raiders put the ball in Jacobs’ hands. Mike Hilton got injured, and his replacement, Vernon Hargreaves, gave the Raiders some help with a pass interference penalty on fourth down. The Bengals’ red zone held up and forced the Raiders into another field goal. Carlson made the 34-yard kick, and the Raiders’ chipped away at the lead with 14:17 remaining in the game, down 23-16.
Chase went well over 100 yards on the next drive. The offense stalled again in the red zone, but McPherson’s 28-yarder put the Bengals up by double-digits again. With the fourth quarter winding down, the Bengals extended their lead to 26-16 with 6:46 left on the clock.
The Raiders made another push to score and had to convert a fourth-and-five to keep their drive alive. Once again, red zone defense prevailed, and the Raiders settled for a field goal. The 28-yard kick was good, and the Raiders trailed 26-19 with 3:34 to go in the game.
Taylor decided to trust his defense and punt after the two-minute warning, giving the Raiders one more chance to level the score. The Raiders got into the red zone, and got to a goal-to-go situation. On fourth and goal, Germaine Pratt came up with the game-clinching interception.
With only 12 seconds left in the game, the Bengals were content to kneel it out and seal the victory.
The Bengals broke the curse, and the Bengals beat the Raiders 26-19 to win their first playoff game since 1991.
The Bengals will have to wait to find out who they play in the Division round, but they’re happy to move on regardless.