The Cincinnati Bengals went 31 years without a playoff win, then got two in eight days.
Not only have the Bengals won the last two postseason games, they have barely trailed. The only time they have been behind was in their opening drive, when they were down 3-0 to the Las Vegas Raiders. They scored a touchdown at the end of that drive and haven’t trailed since.
It’s not hard to see why the Bengals think they deserve to be in the AFC Championship.
With the Bengals playing for a spot in the Super Bowl next week, here’s what we’ve learned.
This team rises to the occasion
This team rises to the occasion in a way that past Bengals teams never could.
In crunch time, Joe Burrow makes the right throws. Ja’Marr Chase makes the clutch catches. Evan McPherson makes the nerve-racking kicks. The defense takes the ball away when the Bengals need a win.
In the last half-minute of the game, every phase did exactly what they needed to do to win. The defense came up with the pick. The offense got the first down. The special teams made the 52-yard field goal.
Most importantly, Zac Taylor finds ways to win games.
Marvin Lewis could never win the important games, so the Bengals eventually moved on from him.
In his first two years, Taylor couldn’t find ways to win. Many wanted him gone due to his inability to win messy games. But now that he’s found the secret formula, he should be Coach of the Year.
The Bengals MUST figure out pass protection
You don’t need to be a football expert to know that nine sacks are bad.
The offense was stifled for many parts of the game, allowing for the Titans to erase a 16-6 deficit in the third quarter.
No other quarterback has taken nine sacks in a playoff game and won. If it wasn’t for the fact that Burrow has that x-factor and that the defense stepped it up, the Titans should have won.
Taylor probably won’t change the personnel on the offensive line, even though many Bengals fans feel that he should. If they're not going to change the lineup, then they need to scheme protection better and create play calls that can withstand pressure.
Defense comes up clutch again
With Burrow under pressure all game, the Bengals’ defense stepped up and won it again.
There were perhaps more defensive highlights in this game than any other game for the Bengals this season. Jessie Bates started things off with an interception on the first snap. Then, there was the two-point stop from Vonn Bell and Clay Johnston. That was followed by the Mike Hilton interception. After that, the defense stopped Derrick Henry on fourth down. And to give the offense a chance to win the game, Eli Apple and Logan Wilson got the ball back to set up the field goal.
For the second week in a row, the Bengals needed a big play from their defense to win the game. For the second week in a row, the defense came up with an interception to seal the victory.
The old saying goes, “defense win championships.” That is less true in this era that favors offensive so heavily, but so far, defense has taken the Bengals to the AFC Championship.