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Bengals make another incredible statement with playoff win over the Bills HP NEWS

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Bengals make another incredible statement with playoff win over the Bills
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. –– Before the Cincinnati Bengals traveled to Buffalo, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow explained why he “never feels like an underdog.” Every time running back Joe Mixon spoke to the media, he said he didn’t understand why the Bengals weren’t viewed as the “big dogs” in the AFC.

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The rallying cry in the Bengals’ locker room has been “Us against the world.” The Bengals didn’t feel like Burrow was getting the same recognition as Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. They were frustrated about why their status as reigning AFC champions didn’t give them more respect across the NFL. They were insulted that the NFL started selling tickets for a potential neutral site AFC Championship matchup between the Chiefs and the Bills.

After traveling on the road and beating the Buffalo Bills, 27-10 in the second round of the playoffs at Highmark Stadium, Burrow and the Bengals won’t have that problem anymore. In a game played in a snowstorm, the Bengals made a statement by toppling the Bills.

“I’m done harping on (respect), I don’t care if they respect us or not,” Bengals defensive tackle DJ Reader said. “We got a bunch of guys that care and play football hard. (Forget about) them. I don’t care. I’m done caring about it. Wherever they got the line, however they feel week-to-week, we’re just going to play football. It’s not even worth addressing anymore.”

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Cincinnati Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst (88) catches a pass in the end zone 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.

Everything is different now the Bengals have made a statement of this magnitude in two consecutive postseasons. After beating Bills quarterback Josh Allen, Burrow cemented his case as to why he’s the better quarterback. He completed 23 of his 36 passing attempts for 242 yards, leading the Bengals on scoring drives on five of the Bengals’ first seven possessions.

The Bengals proved that they should have been viewed as Super Bowl contenders all along. A defense that was called “fairly tough” showed, yet again, why it’s a clutch unit that can outwit any quarterback in the NFL.

First Josh Allen, then Patrick Mahomes: Joe Burrow facing his AFC quarterback rivals in playoffs

On Sunday, Burrow faced another quarterback who will be in his “championship window” for his entire career. Likely, Burrow, Allen and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be competing for AFC titles for the next decade.

Burrow, who had the best playoff performance of his NFL career, won his first matchup against Allen. Now the Bengals will go to Kansas City next Sunday with a Super Bowl berth on the line.

“They keep talking us down, and we’ll keep showing up,” wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase said. “The disrespect they gave us, we don’t care how they treated us and how they’re going to do us. We had the hardest schedule all year. Nothing is going to be easy for us. We know what we’re capable of, and that’s why we came out here not making a fuss with anybody and just putting on a show for the world to see.”

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) scrambles under pressure from Buffalo Bills defensive end Boogie Basham (55) 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 quarterback Joe Burrow (9) scrambles under pressure from Buffalo Bills defensive end Boogie Basham (55) 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.

Bengals offensive line comes through vs. Bills, despite missing three starters

Even though they were facing one of the best defenses in the NFL and the Bengals were missing three injured starting offensive linemen, the Bengals’ offense looked unstoppable coming out of the gate. Historically, defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has been the “mad scientist” coming up with brand new concepts for big games, but this time Zac Taylor and Brian Callahan developed the new wrinkle that stunned the opposing team.

The Bengals’ offense leaned in more than ever into a package that featured wide receiver Chase in the backfield. Taylor spoke about doing this all the way back at the NFL combine, but he saved the full look until this matchup against the Bills.

On the first drive of the game, the Bills didn’t know how to guard it. On one play, this package got wide receiver Tyler Boyd an advantageous one-on-one matchup for a 23-yard catch. A few plays later, Chase motioned from the backfield and into the slot. The Bills’ linebackers and safeties lost Chase in the middle of the field, and he was wide open for a 28-yard score.

“We just outplayed them,” wide receiver Tyler Boyd said. “We’re that special team here.”

The next drive, the Bengals’ offense made another counter move to a counter move. Recently, the Bengals have been running a lot of screens for Chase. This time, with 3:51 left in the first quarter, they faked a screen to Chase and Burrow threw a deep ball to tight end Hayden Hurst, who was uncovered for a 15-yard touchdown.

Dominating play had Bengals up by 10 at halftime in Buffalo

The Bengals took a 17-7 lead into halftime, and Burrow already had 18 completions for 186 yards. Callahan said before the game that the Bengals wanted to put the ball in Burrow’s hands as much as possible, and he played like a quarterback who will receive a new contract this offseason for a half-billion dollars.

“He never, never disappoints,” Boyd said. “Never.”

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 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.

Even though the Bengals were the team with the banged-up offensive line, the Bengals had the defensive line that took over the game. Early on, Joseph Ossai and Trey Hendrickson came up with quarterback hits and sacks that got Allen off the field. The Bengals’ defense disguised coverages to force Allen to hold onto the ball, and the pass rush got home to make big plays.

The Bengals were the underdog, but they were still the team that dictated the terms of the game.

Going on the road to face Allen and the Bills in one of the toughest road stadiums in the NFL could be the toughest test the Bengals face the rest of the way. Before this week, Allen had never lost a home playoff game. But when has history ever stopped the Burrow-led Bengals?

“We came out here on their home field and they put up 10 (freaking) points,” Reader said. “We got 27. We’re going to KC. That’s all that matters. Count us out, (say), ‘Bengals ain’t this, Bengals ain’t that.’ We just keep showing up on Sundays.”

Burrow did it all in the second half as the Bengals pulled away. He sprinted for a first down when the pocket broke down. He showed pinpoint accuracy on throws to the sideline. He stayed in the game after taking a brutal hit to his legs. He shredded blitzes. He snuck up the middle for first downs.

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28) breaks a tackle by Buffalo Bills safety Dean Marlowe (31) on a carry in the first quarter during an 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.

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28) breaks a tackle by Buffalo Bills safety Dean Marlowe (31) on a carry in the first quarter during an 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.

With the run game clicking as well as it has in months, the Bengals’ offense was clicking on all cylinders. A 1-yard run by Joe Mixon late in the third quarter put the Bengals up 14 points, and the defense put the game away. Mixon finished the game with 105 rushing yards, responding to one of the worst statistical stretches of his career with one of his best games as a Bengal.

After getting past Buffalo, the Bengals showed why no one should “doubt” them anymore. This win was validation for all the knocks and slights the Bengals have been receiving since May.

“We’re a more complete team and a better team (than last year),” Burrow said. “We just seem to make plays when it counts… Our O-line is better, our run game is better and our defense is better, our special teams is better. We’re just a much better team.”

Joe Burrow, Zac Taylor making Cincinnati Bengals postseason history

The Bengals now have 10 postseason wins in franchise history. Burrow and Taylor have delivered half of them. As the Bengals returned to the locker room after the win, players like Chase and tight end Hayden Hurst shouted about the “refunds” they hoped the fans who bought tickets to a Chiefs vs. Bills conference title game would receive.

These Bengals are playing with the same magic that last year’s Bengals had. With an even better, more experienced roster this time around, it could finally be the Bengals’ year to win it all.

“What an unbelievable taking advantage of an opportunity,” center Ted Karras said. “(We came) out here in the biggest games of all of our lives and (got) a dominating victory over one of the top teams in the world.”

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Bengals off to AFC title game after beating Buffalo Bills

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