Thursday, May 26

How the Bengals beat the Titans to advance to the AFC Championship


NASHVILLE — The Cincinnati Bengals broke their 31-year playoff drought last week, and with an explosive young offense, they looked like this year’s dark contender.

And now they are officially. The No. 4-seeded Bengals overcame nine sacks and six penalties to upset the top-seeded Tennessee Titans 19-16 when rookie kicker Evan McPherson made his fourth and final field goal on Saturday, a 52-ball pass. yards that split the poles when the weather. Timed out.

The Bengals, who had three interceptions of their own, will face the game-winner Chiefs-Bills on Sunday and travel to Kansas City or Buffalo.

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” quarterback Joe Burrow said of the team’s youth, an acknowledgment that he will be less experienced no matter who his team faces in the AFC championship game next week, as whether his counterpart is Patrick. Mahomes, 26, of Kansas City or Josh Allen, 25, of Buffalo. Burrow, 25, is in just his second NFL season, an experience gap that separates him from his peers.

“Tomorrow morning might be a different story, but right now I feel great,” Burrow said.

Despite the many hits, Burrow threw for 348 yards on 28-of-37 passes with one interception. His counterpart on Saturday, Ryan Tannehill, suffered just one sack but was doomed for three interceptions.

Statistically, the game made no sense. Burrow was terrific when he had time to spot his speedy receivers, completing 28 of 37 passes for 348 yards. The Titans covered Ja’Marr Chase, who still managed to catch five passes for 109 yards. Wide receiver Tee Higgins and tight end CJ Uzomah each had seven receptions.

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However, Burrow was sacked repeatedly as the Titans’ defense ran into, around and through the Bengals’ porous offensive line. Tennessee defensive end Jeffery Simmons led the charge with three sacks from Burrow.

“That was very, very difficult,” Burrow said of the pressure he faced throughout the game.

However, it was the Bengals’ defense that ultimately saved the day, intercepting Tannehill on the Titans’ first and last plays of the game, and once in between. The final selection was the most important as it came with only 20 seconds remaining.

In a drive that began with 2:43 remaining in the game, Tannehill slowly marched the Titans down the field trying to get the team into field goal position. Then, on the fifth play of the series, on third-and-5 from the Titans 40-yard line, Tannehill’s pass was deflected by cornerback Eli Apple and dragged by linebacker Logan Wilson.

Burrow, who had a breakout season throwing for more than 4,600 yards, got another chance to add to his resume by stealing a second playoff victory. From the Bengals 47-yard line, Burrow quickly hit Chase to move the ball to the Titans 35-yard line and into decent field goal position.

The Bengals ran out a few more seconds on the clock before McPherson hit the game-winner.

Had Cincinnati’s offensive line been more successful, the Bengals could have easily won the game, as the team held the ball for about seven minutes longer than the Titans over the course of the night, despite the return of the star running back. Tennessee, Derrick Henry, after an absence. of more than two months.

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In fact, the game got off to an auspicious start for the Bengals. On the first play from scrimmage, Cincinnati safety Jessie Bates intercepted Tannehill. With great field position, the Bengals looked ready to attack. But in a pattern that defined the game, Burrow was sacked on the first play from scrimmage. A game delay penalty stopped the promising drive and the Bengals settled for a field goal, not a touchdown.

Cincinnati kicked three of them in the first half and entered the locker room ahead, 9-6.

Meanwhile, the Titans looked rusty after a week off. Tannehill missed receivers, was sacked, threw rushing throws and Henry, who finished with 62 yards on 20 carries, didn’t seem to help much.

The Titans put together a solid drive midway through the second quarter. Tannehill connected with his two best receivers, AJ Brown and Julio Jones. On the first and goal, Henry lined up in the wildcat, took the center and scored, much to the delight of the home crowd who had been shouting his name.

However, Henry and the Titans failed to score on a 2-point attempt. In the end, those 2 extra points wouldn’t have mattered because the Bengals’ last field goal was enough.


www.nytimes.com

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