CLEVELAND — In their wild-card game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night, the Baltimore Ravens weren’t anticipated to put up much of a fight without Lamar Jackson. However, things didn’t go as planned.
Although it was more closer than expected, the Bengals managed to prevail 24-17 to advance to face the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round.
The Bengals defeated a Ravens club that was missing many key players to win back-to-back division championships when the two AFC North teams squared up for the second consecutive week. Cincinnati was pushed to the limit at Paycor Stadium despite the Ravens playing without Jackson, but they managed to pull through.
The reigning AFC champions were able to progress thanks to several significant contributions from important individuals.
Important play: Cincinnati’s defence forced a huge turnover with the Ravens only a yard away from grabbing the lead in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Logan Wilson knocked the ball out of Huntley’s grip as he attempted to stretch it over the goal line for a score. Defensive end Sam Hubbard snatched it up as it squirted loose for the longest fumble return score in NFL playoff history at 98 yards. With 11:39 remaining in the contest, it resulted in a 14-point swing, giving the Bengals a 24-17 advantage.
Joe Burrow, the Bengals’ quarterback, had several standout performances. Burrow completed 22 of his 32 passes for 209 yards, one score, and no picks. In the third quarter, with his team down 10-9, Burrow completed three consecutive throws, one of which came on third-and-9, before capping the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. In order to add two more points, he sprinted out of the pocket and connected with wide receiver Tee Higgins, giving the Bengals a 17-10 advantage.
Unsettling trend: Going ahead, a lot of questions remain over Cincinnati’s offensive line. In the event that Williams and right guard Alex Cappa are unable to play against Buffalo in the divisional round, Cincinnati will be down to only three starting linemen. Burrow suffered four sacks.
Unknown fact: Hubbard’s 98-yard score was the first go-ahead fourth-quarter defensive touchdown in a playoff game since Jeff Burris’ pick-six against Mark Brunell in the 1996 wild-card round for the Buffalo Bills against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The previous record for a fumble return in the playoffs was 93 yards, set by Andy Russell against the Baltimore Colts in the divisional round in 1975. As a result, Baltimore has suffered losses on both occasions of the two longest fumble returns in NFL postseason history.
The difference between the Ravens pulling off one of their greatest surprises in postseason history and demonstrating to the football world that they can win without Jackson was made by Huntley’s fumble and the subsequent recovery.
Huntley made a number of crucial plays to keep the Ravens, an 8-point underdog, in the contest. However, his two errors cost him dearly and resulted in 10 points. Due to a knee ailment, Jackson missed his sixth consecutive game and did not accompany the squad to the game.
Unsettling pattern: Marcus Peters, the cornerback, was a liability when he played after missing three games due to a calf ailment. Cincinnati scored their first touchdown in the first quarter as a result of Peters’ taunting penalty (he got in Joe Mixon’s face while laying on top of him). At the conclusion of the season, Peters will be a free agent.
Eye-popping One of the game’s more unexpected plays was Huntley’s 41-yard touchdown throw to Demarcus Robinson in the third quarter, according to NextGen stats. It was Robinson’s first long catch of the year and Huntley’s first attempt of the contest beyond 10 air yards. Robinson faked fooled Bengals CB Eli Apple with a double move and gained 4.7 yards of separation. The likelihood of success was 62.3%.
The Ravens have a winning record overall while playing on the road in the wild-card round, going 6-1. Baltimore was the last NFL club to have a perfect record in away wild-card games.