NFL

Bengals win first playoff game in 31 years, set the table for a run at AFC title

CINCINNATI — Send those text messages. The Cincinnati Bengals have finally won a playoff game.

Cincinnati defeated the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19 at Paul Brown Stadium in an AFC wild-card game on Saturday. It was Cincinnati’s first playoff victory in 31 years, since before cell phones were capable of sending texts, as memes on the internet reminded folks in the days preceding the game.

But the win wasn’t just about ending the longest playoff win drought in the NFL. It was about the first step in making a run at the AFC title.

Over the course of the season, Cincinnati went from the projected cellar dweller in the AFC North to division champs, ending a six-year stretch without a playoff appearance. That journey included an overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers, one of the top teams in the NFL, and a Week 17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the AFC representatives in last year’s Super Bowl.

Those performances indicated Cincinnati wasn’t just a team that could win a playoff game. They showed the Bengals can hang with the best in the NFL.

For the second time this season, the Bengals needed to hang tough against the Raiders in order to pick up a win. The first came on Week 11 and set the tone for the second half of Cincinnati’s season.

The second victory was much more significant. It gave the city of Cincinnati something it hasn’t experienced in decades and set the table for the Bengals to have a truly special postseason.

“We expect to beat everybody that we play, not just hang with them,” Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said.

Burrow added: “I mean, it’s exciting. But this is expected. This isn’t like the icing on top of the cake or anything. This is the cake. So we’re moving on.”

Describe the game in two words: Curse ending. The Bengals ended the fabled “Curse of Bo Jackson” — the former Raiders running back’s final NFL game in January 1991 that also ended Cincinnati’s last playoff run that featured a win.

“I’m just really, really happy for the city of Cincinnati and that they get a chance to enjoy this,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said after the game. “And now, just exhale and enjoy the ride we have. Because we’re not done yet.”

Pivotal play: On third-and-four at the end of the first half, Bengals quarterback Burrow scrambled and found Tyler Boyd for a 10-yard touchdown pass to give Cincinnati a 20-6 lead. Initially, it appeared Burrow was going to go out of bounds. A referee even blew an errant whistle. But the play continued and Cincinnati got a key red-zone touchdown.

QB breakdown: Burrow was efficient in his playoff debut. After throwing for 148 yards earlier in the season against the Raiders, Burrow finished Saturday’s win completing 24-of-34 passes for 244 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.


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