NASHVILLE, Tenn. — — Maybe, just maybe, these young Cincinnati Bengals really are that good.
Especially with the way they continue to end postseason droughts. And with their latest win putting them through to the franchise’s first AFC championship game in 33 years, already one Super Bowl win.
Rookie Evan MacPherson kicked a 52-yard field goal as time expired, and the fourth-seeded Bengals beat the top-seeded Tennessee Titans 19-16 on Saturday to end the team’s longest active road playoff streak. the NFL.
“He’s got ice in his veins,” Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said of McPherson. “Not much more to say. It’s as cool as it gets.”
A week after snapping a 31-year playoff win drought, the Bengals (12-7) finally won their first road game of the postseason after losing their first seven. They made it to the 1981 and 1988 Super Bowls by winning at their home field.
“We’re here to make noise and teams are going to have to pay attention to us,” Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow said.
Cincinnati will play in the AFC championship game next Sunday in the winner of the Buffalo-Kansas City matchup. They play in the other game of the AFC divisional round on Sunday.
The Bengals intercepted Ryan Tannehill three times, setting up two of McPherson’s four field goals. Logan Wilson he intercepted Tannehill with 20 seconds remaining. Burrow hit rookie Pro Bowl receiver Ja’Marr Chase with a 19-yard pass, then the Bengals ran twice to set up McPherson for the win.
“That’s a kicker’s dream,” McPherson said, “to have the game on your shoulders.”
Burrow shook being fired nine times when Tennessee tied an NFL record held by four other teams for the most in the postseason. He threw for 348 yards to become the first quarterback taken No. 1 overall to win a divisional game in his first two seasons.
Chase finished with 109 receiving yards.
Joe Mixon ran for the Bengals’ only touchdown, a 16 yards on his first drive of the third quarter.
“We find a way all year,” Burrow said. “Man, crazy, crazy game. That’s a very, very good team. Amazing defensive line. They had a great plan on defense. Thanks to them, we found a way in the end.”
The Titans (12-6) wrapped up their 25th season in Tennessee with their third straight loss on home turf as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. They haven’t won at home since January 2003 in the postseason.
“I don’t think Ryan, myself or anyone else has done enough to win the game,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “That’s the way it goes. It’s never going to be about one person, not as long as I’m the head coach, which will be a while.”
Tennessee had Derrick Henry, the 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year, on the field after missing nine games with a broken foot. He rushed for a touchdown and finished with 66 yards.
Tannehill was picked off on the Titans’ first play of the game. His second came in the first and goal on the Bengals 9 in the third. He finished with 220 receiving yards. AJ Brown had five catches for 142 yards.
Burrow was the NFL’s most-sacked quarterback for the season, just ahead of Tannehill.
The Titans sacked him on his first play and had three in the first quarter alone. Burrow became the second quarterback to win an NFL playoff game. despite being sacked nine times, joining Len Dawson who beat Buffalo for the 1966 AFL championship.
The Titans had plenty of chances to win.
Henry was stopped on fourth and 1 at Cincinnati 37 instead of Tennessee attempting a long field goal to take the lead with 7:16 remaining. They also got the ball back with 2:43 left and plenty of time to drive in the game-winning field goal themselves after scoring 10 points in 90 seconds late in the third quarter, tying it at 16-all.
Tennessee showed little awareness of the clock, running just one play before the clock stopped for the 2-minute warning. On the third play, Tannehill’s pass to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine was intercepted by Wilson setting up the Bengals for the game-winning field goal.
“All day we were shooting ourselves in the foot,” Brown said of the Titans.
Tannehill summed up the pain of loss: “This hurts. It hurts much.
McPherson converted for his 11th field goal from 50 yards or more, the most in a season for a player. He also became the first kicker in NFL history with at least four or more field goals in multiple games in a single postseason.
“He took a big step forward and got us where we need to go,” Burrow said.
ATTACK OF SACK OF TITANS
tennessee five sacks in the first half they were the most in a playoff game since Jan. 8, 2000, when the Titans sacked Buffalo quarterback Rob Johnson five times in the game best known as the Music City Miracle. Burrow was only the third quarterback to be sacked at least five times in the first half of a playoff game since 1991.
Tennessee’s nine sacks tied the NFL playoff mark previously set by Kansas City against the then-Oilers on January 16, 1994, Cleveland against the Jets on January 3, 1987; the 49ers against the Bears on January 6, 1985 and Buffalo against the Chiefs on January 1, 1967.
Titans LB David Long was hurt early in the third quarter but walked off the field. I return later. … Bengals Pro Bowl defensive end Trey Hendrickson, free from a concussion that ruled him out of last week’s wild-card win, sat out with 1:46 left. That cost the Bengals timeout they didn’t need.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
Bengals: They’ll wait to see if they play Kansas City or Buffalo next Sunday.
Titans: Enter the offseason looking for more tweaks to get back into the AFC championship game.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism