Burrow leads way as Cincinnati captures first playoff victory in 31 years
By Ken Belson
A large majority of players on the host Cincinnati Bengals and the Las Vegas Raiders had never played in a playoff game, but one side received a valuable bit of preparation for its postseason run.
The Bengals’ 26-19 victory against the Raiders on Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium, the franchise’s first playoff victory in 31 years, could prove to be valuable experience when Cincinnati hits the road next week in the AFC divisional round.
The Raiders, a franchise that had not made the postseason since 2016 and last won a playoff game in 2002, suffered from a lack of rest and preparation that showed.
On Saturday, quarterback Joe Burrow led the Bengals’ high-powered offense on scoring drives in their four possessions in the first half, connecting for touchdowns with receiver Tyler Boyd and tight end C.J. Uzomah. Burrow relied largely all game on the rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who finished with nine catches for 116 yards.
The Bengals had more trouble moving the ball in the second half, and were slowed by at least one penalty not called against the Raiders.
But Burrow, who finished with 244 yards on 24 of 34 passing with no interceptions, provided just enough offense to counter the Raiders, who moved the ball much better in the second half on the strength of big plays by quarterback Derek Carr and running back Josh Jacobs, and several critical penalties on the Bengals.
But Cincinnati’s defense held off Carr and the Raiders, who mounted a feverish attempted comeback after being behind 26-16, in the fourth quarter with no timeouts and less than two minutes to play.
Carr kept the game close, hitting DeSean Jackson on a pass to convert on fourth-and-5 from the Raiders’ 44. The Raiders kicked a field goal on the drive with less than four minutes remaining to narrow their deficit to 26-19.
The Bengals drained more than two minutes off the clock on the ensuing possession but could not score.
The Raiders got the ball back on their own 35 with 1 minute, 51 seconds remaining. Carr hit Jacobs for a 15-yard gain and the Bengals were charged with a roughing-the-passer penalty, bringing the Raiders past midfield.
Without any timeouts, Las Vegas had little margin for error, and the weight of Cincinnati’s past playoff failures heightened the drama.
But on fourth-and-goal from the Bengals’ 9, Carr was intercepted by Germaine Pratt, ending the Raiders’ topsy-turvy season, and sealing the long-awaited playoff win for the Bengals.