With each passing playoff game, these new Cincinnati Bengals keep writing new chapters of championship football. Their big win over the Buffalo Bills is the next step in rewriting their team history, with so many iconic plays.
Here are the best and worst from the Bengals in their Divisional Round win over the Bills.
The offense ran through Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon in this one. Burrow sliced and diced the Bills on two early drives, while Mixon rattled off solid gains on early downs and was the workhorse down the stretch.
In the constant snowfall, Burrow threw for 242 yards, two touchdowns (should have been three), a 101.9 rating, and a 64% completion rate. Meanwhile, the Bengals were able to lean on an outstanding rushing attack led by Mixon, who galloped for over 100 yards and nearly five-and-a-half yards per carry.
The patchwork offensive line:
And why were Burrow and Mixon allowed to have such great success, you ask? The offensive line, complete with three reserves in starting roles, put on a clinic.
Jackson Carman had the best day of his pro career in his old stomping grounds over at left tackle. He had a 76.0 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus, as he looked like the guy with regular dominant reps at Clemson.
Max Scharping held steady at right guard for the third straight game in relief of Alex Kappa, while Hakeem Adeniji held his own at right tackle. While the Bills lacked Von Miller and aren’t world-beaters as pass-rushers, this group came to play.
It was impressive that they held their ground so well in the snow. The layer that covered the field very well could have had guys “playing on skates” in unfamiliar grounds.
The pass protection on Sunday was awesome. Look at that pocket. pic.twitter.com/ztpE7gpt5V— Mike (@bengals_sans) January 23, 2023
A suffocating defensive performance:
Josh Allen not throwing a touchdown on his home turf? Check. Hold the Bills to under 65 team rushing yards and a sub 3.5 yards-per-carry average?
No wide receivers netting over 40 receiving yards? That’s just mean.
Lou Anarumo’s group absolutely took it to the Bills’ offense at every level. They swarmed against the run, frustrated, and then subsequently hit Allen eight times, imposing their will.
The cornerbacks were absolute maulers on Sunday afternoon, with eight passes defended. Mike Hilton was all over the place from the slot, making plays blitzing and in coverage, while Cam Taylor-Britt had the game-sealing interception.
Mike Hilton led the team in tackles (7) defensive stops (3) and generated 4 pressures on just 6 pass rush attempts.— Evan McPhillips (@emcphil) January 23, 2023
Is that good? Seems good.
New guys contributing heavily:
Cincinnati has turned the roster completely over since Marvin Lewis was last in the building, but a few 2022 additions came up big against Buffalo. Rookies Taylor-Britt and Dax Hill each had a couple of nice moments, while Cordell Volson and Scharping both played well on the line.
One could throw Drue Chrisman and Cal Adomitis in there, but no other “new guy’s” contributions were more noticeable than Hayden Hurst. He had a score (almost had another late in the game) and just showed high effort with every play.
The fix wasn’t in, after all:
It was a war cry from the Bengals and their fans all week, as most believed the league would go at any length to ensure a Chiefs/Bills AFC Championship Game. Still, the Bengals only had two penalties against them and just thoroughly dominated the contest. As it turns out, the Bengals are quite the quality squad and are very palatable to the masses in their own right.
An iconic win:
Before Zac Taylor and Joe Burrow arrived in The Queen City, the Bengals hadn’t won a road playoff game in their history. In an odd dichotomy, Cincinnati was undefeated against the Bills in two previous postseason clashes.
If Sam Hubbard’s 98-yard dash was the brief, shooting star of elation for Bengals fans a week ago, the viewing of a dominating slug-fest in three-plus hours of Buffalo snow was akin to a tourist sitting on a beach at the Pacific, watching the waves endlessly roll in to the shore.
As we said last week with the Hubbard touchdown, these moments are the ones that we look back on when Super Bowl documentaries are made. We’ll see if the team has two more wins in them and we look at back at this one as a critical part of the march to a Lombardi Trophy.
A really cool and overlooked moment captured at the end of the game with Max Scharping, who has filled in nicely the past 2.5 games at right guard, celebrates with his son (I presume, given the jersey number with “Daddy” on the name plate) in the snow with a huge smile. pic.twitter.com/H0OIpYkRMW— Anthony Cosenza (@CJAnthonyCUI) January 23, 2023
The coaching staff:
I usually like to get into more finer details with this weekly post, but sometimes a blanket statement applies. Zac Taylor, Brian Callahan, and Frank Pollack are owed massive credit for their offensive game plan and getting the best execution from their players.
Anarumo gets a ton of praise and Darrin Simmons’ unit also supplied admirable support. In a moment and type of game in which this franchise has traditionally flinched, the coaches and players were more than ready.
Embracing the community:
One of the things that’s changed immensely with the front office and the coaching staff that was ushered in back in 2019 was a massive embracing of the community, fan base, former players, and Greater Cincinnati area as a whole. From the Ring of Honor to AFC Championship rallies and everything in between, these new-look Bengals make sure their fans know they love them.
Taylor’s (and his players’) tour of bars and other local favorite venues to immediately celebrate postseason wins have become a staple. It’s always awesome to witness the reactions.
We still can’t agree on a catch:
For what has seemed like an eternity now, the NFL can’t seem to properly define a catch. The latest episode revolved around a Ja’Marr Chase would-be touchdown in the second quarter.
Chase appeared to have multiple feet in and secured the catch but had it jarred loose, only to re-assert control. While it was ruled a catch on the field, it was overturned, as it did fall under the league’s “definition” of a catch.
It’s likely the right call was made, but we’ve seen several high-profile plays in big games affect results. I suppose this is more venting frustration at the lack of clarity on things.
Missed opportunities for further dominance:
Even though the Bengals won by three possessions on the road in the snow, they actually had opportunities for two other touchdowns. The aforementioned Chase play was one (it was a dart by Burrow) and would have really put the game away early.
Later in the game, the Bengals were driving to put the game away early in the fourth quarter. On a second down, the uber-pinpoint Burrow had the rare misfire where he sailed one over the head of Hurst, where he would have waltzed into the end zone.
Cincinnati settled for a field goal, and Buffalo stayed somewhat alive. These are opportunities that can’t be wasted next week in Kansas City.
At the risk of being labeled “lazy”, there wasn’t too much to put out there as “ugly” this week. The play was clean; the Bengals secured another franchise-changing win and are headed to the AFC Championship Game for the second consecutive year. Not many complaints about Sunday here, folks.