CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Burrow led an efficient offense that scored on six drives, including two of his touchdown passes, and rookie Evan McPherson made four field goals as the Cincinnati Bengals finally advanced in the playoffs with a 26-19 win over Las Vegas in Saturday’s wild-card game.
It was a victory three decades in the making for the Bengals (11-7). After going from worst to first in the AFC North with a generally young roster, they ended an embarrassing long postseason drought that spanned 31 years and eight consecutive defeats.
“Who Dey” indeed.
Their next opponent will depend on results in the other two AFC wild-card games this weekend.
The Bengals had to survive a Raiders drive to the 9-yard line, but Derek Carr was intercepted on fourth down by Germaine Pratt.
Helped by some problematic officiating by Jerome Boger’s crew that might have allowed Burrow’s touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd to count when it shouldn’t have, the Bengals also extended a lengthy postseason drought for the Raiders (10-8).
Las Vegas, which won its final four games to squeeze into the playoffs, last won in the postseason in the 2002 AFC championship game.
Cincinnati made it 4 for 4 on scoring drives late in the first half, though with some controversy. Burrow rolled right to avoid pressure and threw from close to the sideline. Play continued despite an erroneous whistle by an official, who thought Burrow stepped out of bounds. Boyd caught the 10-yard pass in the back of the end zone for a 20-6 lead. The play counted, to protests from the Raiders, who cited the rule that the ball should be returned to the previous spot.
And Las Vegas lost by seven points.
After Daniel Carlson, the league’s top scorer, made a 47-yard field goal to get Las Vegas off well on the opening possession, the Bengals countered. And kept scoring, though mostly field goals. Burrow took Cincinnati 75 yards in 10 plays, connecting with C.J. Uzomah in the front of the end zone on third down from the 7 to make it 7-3. Burrow threw for 65 yards on the drive and Uzomah celebrated his score with the Ickey Shuffle.
Then the Bengals’ defense stepped up with their sacks leader, Trey Hendrickson, stripping Carr of the ball and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi rumbling 11 yards with it to the Raiders 10. But Las Vegas held and Evan McPherson made a 31-yard field goal.
The mistakes kept coming for the visitors. Peyton Barber touched a botched kickoff heading out of bounds at the Raiders 2, putting them in a hole they couldn’t climb from when Carr was sacked at his 1. All-Pro punter A.J. Cole got off a 58-yarder, but Trent Taylor’s 14-yard return set up Cincinnati once more in prime position.
Ja’Marr Chase, who had nine receptions for 116 yards, kept victimizing the Raiders, his 38-yard reception getting the Bengals to the 6 before they stalled. McPherson made a 30-yarder for a 13-3 lead. It soon was 13-6 as the Raiders did two things right, at last: Josh Jacobs runs of 14 and 35 yards that led to Carlson’s 28-yard field goal.
The Raiders’ impressive two-minute drill covering 80 yards, capped by Carr’s 14-yard pass to Zay Jones with 13 seconds remaining in the second quarter, made it 20-13. McPherson, a fifth-round draft pick last April, made two more second-half field goals, as did Carlson.
The 66,277 fans hungry for some playoff gold had to hold their breath before getting it.