AFC Divisional Round Sunday Recap: Bengals snowplow Bills 27-10 to advance to second-straight AFC Championship game

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (1) catches pass and turns in for a touchdown in the first quarter of the NFL divisional playoff football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. The Bengals led 17-7 at halftime. Cincinnati Bengals At Buffalo Bills Afc Divisional Jan 22 380

AFC Divisional Round Sunday Recap: Bengals snowplow Bills 27-10 to advance to second-straight AFC Championship game

Bengals 27, Bills 10 

The Cincinnati Bengals steamrolled the Buffalo Bills 27-10 in Sunday afternoon’s AFC divisional round game on the road. The win clinches a trip to Kansas City next weekend, where the Bengals will take on the Chiefs for the right to advance to the Super Bowl. Joe Burrow was relentless, completing 23-of-36 passes for 242 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Much was made all week about Cincinnati’s offensive line, which entered the game down three starters – but the Bengals pushed the Bills around with a physically dominant front all afternoon anyway. Joe Burrow rarely crumbled under pressure in the pocket, and Joe Mixon managed 105 yards rushing.

As the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals took the field for Sunday’s AFC Divisional round game, snow steadily began to cover the field at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. The emotionally-charged crowd roared with excitement upon learning that Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who collapsed just three weeks ago while suffering cardiac arrest on the field in Cincinnati, was in the building for the Divisional round, and watching with his family from a luxury suite.

Despite the passionate, packed house full of Bills fans, the Bengals were the team that started fast. Cincinnati possessed the football first, and quickly drove its way downfield behind accurate, quick throws by quarterback Joe Burrow. Less than four minutes into the game, Burrow connected with wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase for a 28-yard touchdown that silenced the crowd and put the Bengals ahead 7-0. Burrow finished the drive having completed all four of his passes, and the Bengals never faced a third down. After forcing a punt on Buffalo’s first drive, the Bengals took back over on offense once again. This time, Cincinnati used 10 plays to gain 72 yards en route to Burrow’s 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Hayden Hurst with 3:47 left in the first quarter. Through two drives, Joe Burrow was 9-for-9 through the air for 105 yards passing and two touchdowns. The Bengals led, 14-0. 

Buffalo’s defense finally stopped the bleeding by forcing a punt on Cincinnati’s third drive, but desperately needed to get its offense moving as the second quarter began. Slowly but surely, the Bills’ offense came to life. Buffalo covered 75 yards over 15 plays to start the second quarter, and eventually cut its deficit in half when Josh Allen burrowed into the end zone from a yard away.

Cincinnati’s offense picked up where it left off in the first quarter on its next drive. The Bengals dove 65 yards over 13 plays, and appeared to have extended their lead to 21-7 on Ja’Marr Chase’s second touchdown catch of the afternoon – but after further review, the catch was overturned and Cincinnati had to settle for a field goal with 1:49 to go in the half.

Trailing 17-7, Buffalo began the second half with the football and with a clear plan – run Josh Allen at will when throws downfield are not available. Still, the Bengals’ secondary made plays when it needed to and forced the Bills to settle for a short field goal midway through the third quarter.

The drive that followed for the Bengals felt like a punch to the gut for Buffalo. Cincinnati ran off more than six minutes of clock over 12 plays, and ultimately punched in a 1-yard touchdown with Joe Mixon to extend its lead to 24-10 with just a minute left in the third quarter. Within that minute, Buffalo was once again forced to punt as Cincinnati began to squeeze the life out of the Bills.

Cincinnati’s defense continued its stellar play, and set its offense up with a chance to ice the game early in the fourth quarter. After a pass interference penalty on the Bills set the Bengals up deep in Bills territory, Bengals’ kicker Evan McPherson drilled a short field goal that extended Cincy’s lead to 27-10 and felt like a crushing blow. When the Bengals’ defense stopped the Bills on fourth down to end Buffalo’s next threat, it was clear that Cincinnati would advance.

After Cam Taylor-Britt’s interception of Josh Allen in the game’s final moments, Cincinnati’s defense made snow angels on the field to celebrate its excellent performance. Joe Burrow knelt down to run out the clock moments later, officially eliminating the Bills.

For the Bengals, the win once again brings them within one win of the Super Bowl. Just like they did for last season’s AFC Championship game, they’ll travel to Kansas City and take on Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs. Given the injury concerns for the Chiefs’ signal caller, it feels like a golden opportunity once again to those in orange and black.

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