The Cincinnati Bengals continued their bid to return to the Super Bowl for the second straight season by beating the Buffalo Bills 27-10 in the snow on Sunday.
In one week, Cincinnati will square off against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. The Bengals beat the Chiefs 27-24 in overtime last year to reach Super Bowl LVI, where Cincinnati lost to the Los Angeles Rams 23-20. The Bengals also defeated Kansas City 27-24 in a Dec. 4 regular-season game in Cincinnati.
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Against Buffalo, the Bengals’ first two possessions ended with touchdown passes by quarterback Joe Burrow as Cincinnati moved 79 and 72 yards to the end zone and a 14-0 lead before the first quarter ended.
Burrow completed 23-of-36 passes for 242 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and running back Joe Mixon had 105 yards and one touchdown on 20 rushing attempts as the Bengals rang up 30 first downs.
“They were 13-1 at home in the playoffs, the best home winning percentage in NFL history,” Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said of facing the Bills in Buffalo. “I wanted to show that to the team because I knew what that would do to them. That wouldn’t put fear in them, like ‘Oh, my God, we’re walking into an environment that people don’t win in.’ It was going to be the opposite for our guys, and it was.”
Cincinnati ran for 176 yards on Sunday while limiting the Bills to 63 yards on the ground and quarterback Josh Allen to 25-of-42 passing for 265 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
The Bengals played against the NFL’ s No. 2 defense without three offensive-line regulars who went down with injuries in the past four games, including former Alabama All-American Jonah Williams at left tackle.
Four players from Alabama high schools and colleges got on the field during the Cincinnati-Buffalo game:
· Bengals cornerback Allan George (Andalusia) played but did not record any stats.
· Bills safety Jared Mayden (Alabama) was designated as a game-day inactive.
· Bengals kicker Evan McPherson (Fort Payne) made his five kicks, connecting on field goals from 28 and 20 yards and three extra-points.
· Bills cornerback Siran Neal (Eufaula, Jacksonville State) made two tackles.
· Cam Taylor-Britt (Park Crossing) started at cornerback for the Bengals. Taylor-Britt made six tackles, intercepted one pass and broke up another one. The interception was the first of the second-round rookie’s career and ended Buffalo’s final possession. Taylor-Britt picked off a deep pass by Allen at the Cincinnati 2-yard line with 1:02 left to play.
· Bengals offensive tackle Jonah Williams (Alabama) was designated as a game-day inactive. Williams suffered a dislocated kneecap in Cincinnati’s 24-17 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Jan. 15 in a Super Wild-Card Weekend game.
Cincinnati and Buffalo met in a regular-season game on Jan. 2, but that contest stopped in the first quarter when Bills safety Damar Hamlin had a life-threatening health crisis on the field. Hamlin has recovered enough to attend Sunday’s game.
Because that left the Bills and Bengals with one fewer game than the rest of the teams in the league, NFL owners passed a resolution that would move the AFC Championship Game to a neutral site if Kansas City and Buffalo reached the contest. The reasoning? If the Bills had beaten the Bengals in the incomplete game, Buffalo would have gotten the conference’s No. 1 postseason seed instead of the Chiefs based on its regular-season victory over Kansas City.
But no provision was made for a Cincinnati-Buffalo meeting in the second round. If the Bengals had won the canceled game, they would have had the same record as the Bills and held the head-to-head tiebreaker. But the regular season ended with Buffalo at 13-3 and the Bengals at 12-4, so the Divisional Playoffs game was played at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.
The NFL also passed a resolution that called for a coin toss if Cincinnati and Baltimore met in the first-round and could have been tied if the Bengals had lost the cancelled game. The teams did meet in a Super Wild-Card Weekend game, but the coin flip wasn’t needed.
“We had our mind set to go play in Kansas City,” Taylor said. “It is tough because they have to formulate the plans for coin tosses and they got to formulate the plans for a neutral-site game, and we just keep screwing it up for everybody. I hate that for all the people that have to endure all those logistical issues and we just keep screwing it up, so I’m sorry.”
And the AFC Championship Game will be played at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, at 5:30 p.m. CST Jan. 29. The Chiefs advanced on Saturday by defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-20.
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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.
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