The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs on Saturday, 19-16. While a lot of people might be surprised that the team who went 31 years without winning a playoff game are now one win away from the Super Bowl, Joe Borrow and the rest of the Cincinnati Bengals aren’t. This isn’t the Bengals of years past. Why not us?
Now, I don’t want to take shots at former quarterbacks Carson Palmer or Andy Dalton or former head coach Marvin Lewis, because they did bring some winning seasons to this franchise and city. But they also brought a stigma of a team that couldn’t win the big one, a team that couldn’t win when the lights were brightest. This Joe Burrow lead Bengals team is different though and if you needed any proof, look no further than playoff wins over the Raiders and number one seed Titans and how well the Bengals played with close scores late in the game.
Long-time Bengals fans are accustomed to close games where we turn the ball over in the final drive to lose the game or when a tired from carrying the team defense falls apart in the closing moments to give up the game-winning drive. What we’re seeing with this team is a confidence, a feeling that they belong with the elite, and smart decisions being made up until the final whistle blows.
The Titans on paper were a team that should’ve been playing on all cylinders. A team with a returning King Henry, playing with stud wideouts AJ Brown and Julio Jones, and a defense that was playing for keeps. It’s no secret that Cincinnati’s offensive line is their Achilles heel and the 9 sacks on Burrow would’ve shaken a lesser QB. Those hits were hard and several of those sacks resulted in double-digit losses of yards. But it didn’t shake Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals defense didn’t flinch at the Titans offensive firepower being reunited in front of a ravenous home crowd.
This was an incredibly tough road win for the Bengals and one that has to be making teams look at the Bengals in a new light. Burrow is the new kid in town when compared to elite NFL QBs but make no mistake about it, he’s earned his seat at that table. Let the comparisons to Tom Brady’s calm and collected, yet always confident and determined manner come in. Because they should. Much like Brady, Burrow isn’t afraid to take a hit and would rather do so than throw the ball away, potentially into danger. Like Brady with the Bucs, he’s changed the culture of his team, showing the city and organization that they can be winners. Why not us is a serious question, not wishful thinking like in years past.
Can the Cincinnati Bengals keep the run alive? Absolutely. This is the same team that’s played well on the road all year long and beat the Chiefs late in the season with playoff implications on the line. As of this writing, we don’t know if it will be the Chiefs or the Josh Allen lead Buffalo Bills, but either way, the Bengals are going into enemy territory. Not that they’ll be phased one bit. Like Joe Burrow said in the post-game press conference tonight, he just doesn’t pay that much attention to crowd noise on the road. He’s too focused on winning.