The Cincinnati Bengals opened up their 2023 postseason with a matchup against a divisional rival as the Baltimore Ravens came to Paycor Stadium. They started it off the right way as they locked up their first win of the NFL playoffs, 24-17.
With a rematch of last week’s regular-season finale, the first 30 minutes of this game mimicked the early season matchup in Baltimore. With Lamar Jackson not traveling with the team, the Ravens knew their best chance to pull off the upset would be to keep this Bengals offense off the field. That’s exactly what they did in the first half, and it worked to perfection as they took a 10-9 lead into the locker room.
The second half proved to be much of the same, as both teams exchanged blows. Until a fumble return TD by the Bengals, completely flipped the momentum. From that point forward it never switched back, allowing Cincinnati to push forward for a big win.
Now, let’s check out some winners and losers from tonight’s win over the Ravens;
The Bengals had the best player on the field tonight, and quite arguably might every time they take the field. With a depleted offensive line and going against a tough Ravens defense, Burrow shined once again.
Joe Burrow was efficient against the Ravens' split-safety coverages in the Wild Card round after struggling in both regular season matchups:— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 16, 2023
Week 5 & 18: 31/47, 249 yds, TD, INT (-16.5 EPA)
Wild Card: 15/18, 147 yds, TD (+9.6 EPA)#BALvsCIN | #RuleTheJungle pic.twitter.com/bEX88uHGUD
No one better to be the face of this franchise.
Tee Higgins & Ja’Marr Chase
One thing that can take the Bengals far once again this postseason is that their offense features two true No. 1 receivers.
Although Ja’Marr Chase and Burrow have a chemistry built that dates back to their days at LSU, Tee Higgins continues to step up and make plays. With time in the pocket short tonight, and Burrow having to extend plays, Higgins continued to find ways to create separation and pick up key yards for this offense.
Talking about that chemistry between Burrow and Chase, it’s obvious the first player that he is looking to throw the ball to. What is even wilder is that Chase continues to get open.
No clue if we can expect to see both in a Bengals jersey long-term, but we definitely need to sit back and enjoy this duo for another post-season run.
The Ravens executed their game to perfection when it came to keeping this Bengals offense off the field.
As they tried to run the ball primarily, whenever Tyler Huntley dropped back to pass this Bengals’ pass defense held up well. Despite a few broken plays, mainly from the veteran Eli Apple, the young group of secondary players took a step in the right direction tonight.
We have to add Hubbard to the list of winners after the 98-yard fumble recovery touchdown. It was the longest fumble recovery TD in NFL postseason history. The Cincinnati kid saved the day in what turned out to be the game-winning score.
Shoutout to Logan Wilson for knocking it loose and Germaine Pratt for helping to hold Huntley up and out of the end zone.
With a brand-new right side of the offensive line, a talented Ravens defense took advantage of it early and often.
With a lot of quick throws happening for Joe Burrow, they weren’t able to take advantage of the strength of this team, which is its deep-threat ability. With a date with Buffalo next week, the Bengals will be hoping that today’s reps play a crucial role in how this new look offensive-line will play against the Bills.
A big storyline to the last half of the season for Cincinnati has been injuries. Well the injury bug bit once again tonight, as both Jonah Williams and Eli Apple went down with injuries in the first half.
Add in Alex Cappa, Cam Taylor-Britt, and losing Chidobe Awuzie midway through this season, injuries derailed what was a solid season all around for this franchise. Luckily they have been able to fight through and still win, but adding depth this offseason has to be a priority.
The way to stop the Ravens was fairly simple coming into this one, stop the run and you win. Despite a few long pass plays, that’s exactly what John Harbaugh’s team did.
The run defense was not great tonight, and will definitely have to shore up as they travel to Buffalo next week.
Shoutout to the guys stepping up when it mattered most.