Saturday, February 4, 2023

Bengals overpower Bills, will meet Chiefs in AFC Championship Game


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals threw an enormous wrench into the extremely anticipated journey plans of the Buffalo Payments, their followers and maybe even the NFL places of work.

Burrow threw two landing passes and Cincinnati’s protection swarmed Josh Allen on a snow-slicked discipline in a 27-10 win Sunday to ship the Bengals to the AFC championship sport for the second straight yr.

And it’ll be in Kansas Metropolis once more — as an alternative of in Atlanta, the impartial web site the place the sport would’ve been performed if Buffalo had overwhelmed Cincinnati.

“Higher ship these refunds,” Burrow mentioned, referring to the 50,000 or so tickets already offered for a sport that will by no means be performed.

“See y’all in Atlanta,” one Bengals participant was heard yelling sarcastically whereas the crew made its technique to the locker room, the place cornerback Eli Apple and a few teammates performed interviews smoking cigars.

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The Bengals entered the sport already feeling disrespected when the NFL started promoting tickets for a would-be sport at Atlanta, that was depending on the Payments and Chiefs successful this weekend.

The league selected the primary of its sort convention championship impartial web site setting as a result of the Payments (13-3) completed the season a half-game behind the Chiefs (14-3) after their sport at Cincinnati was canceled on Jan. 2 when Payments security Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and needed to be resuscitated on the sector.

Hamlin’s inspirational presence whereas watching the sport from an end-zone suite was not sufficient to spark the Payments.

As an alternative, it was “Joe Cool” exhibiting poise whereas taking part in in a persistent snowfall.

Burrow accomplished his first 9 passes for 105 yards as Cincinnati raced to a 14-0 lead after its first two possessions. Ja’Marr Chase opened the scoring with a 28-yard TD catch 3:20 into the sport, adopted by Burrow’s 15-yard TD throw to Hayden Hurst eight minutes later. Joe Mixon scored on a 1-yard run, and Evan McPherson made discipline targets from 20 and 28 yards in a sport the Bengals by no means trailed.

“The larger the second will get, the calmer he will get,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor mentioned of Burrow, who improved his playoff file to 5-1. “Our guys consider. They stroll on the sector able to assault.”

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Cincinnati superior to consecutive AFC championship video games for the primary time in franchise historical past and will put together for a rematch of final yr’s title sport. The Bengals defeated Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs 27-24 to advance to final yr’s Tremendous Bowl, which they misplaced to the Los Angeles Rams.

“It’s going to be a enjoyable one,” mentioned Burrow, who went 23 of 36 for 242 yards Sunday. “Two of the highest guys in the league, two of the highest groups in the league, nice defenses, nice general groups, nice coaches.”

Cincinnati has gained the previous three conferences towards Kansas Metropolis, together with a 27-24 victory final month. The Chiefs are making their fifth straight look in the AFC championship sport following a 27-20 win over Jacksonville on Saturday.

The Payments’ playoff run ended in the divisional spherical for a second straight season, together with a 42-36 extra time loss to Kansas Metropolis final yr.

Payments receiver Stefon Diggs was so upset, he was noticed leaving the locker room with a lot of his gear on shortly after the sport ended earlier than being coaxed by a teammate to return.

“He’s a aggressive man. What makes him good is what you noticed,” coach Sean McDermott mentioned of Diggs. “It hurts. I wouldn’t need a man that doesn’t damage. We put all of it on the road on the market and tonight it wasn’t adequate.”

It was a dud of an outing for the Payments, who opened the season with Tremendous Bowl aspirations, and ultimately ran out of emotional and bodily fuel. Except for the gorgeous sight of Hamlin’s collapse, the Payments had their schedule twice disrupted by extreme winter storms.

Accidents additionally performed a difficulty. The Payments’ move rush, lacking Von Miller since he sustained a season-ending knee damage in November, generated little or no strain towards a Bengals offensive line lacking three starters as a consequence of accidents.

“We had been anticipating their greatest punch and so they got here out and punched us,” mentioned Allen, who completed 25 of 42 for 265 yards, and scored on a 1-yard plunge. “We simply didn’t have it at present.”

The Bengals blended in their operating assault to maintain the Payments off steadiness in a primary half throughout which Cincinnati outgained Buffalo in whole yards by a margin of 274-135, and 412-325 general. Mixon’s 105 yards speeding alone had been 1 in need of what number of the Bengals mixed in their previous two video games, each towards Baltimore.

“Domination from begin to end,” Burrow added. “That’s what we anticipated. Job’s not completed.”

The Bengals held one of many NFL’s high offenses to season-low 10 factors. And the unit acquired an opportunity to have a good time by making snow angels in the tip zone after Cam Taylor-Britt intercepted Allen’s try on the aim line to basically finish the sport with 62 seconds remaining.

Hamlin was whisked into the stadium in a safety automobile, and led instantly into the Payments’ locker room about an hour earlier than kickoff. He was later joined by his mom, Nina, and youthful brother, Damir. He watched the sport from a collection in one finish zone and was pictured on the videoboard on the 2-minute warning in the primary half, with Cincinnati dealing with second-and-goal at Buffalo’s 5.

Hamlin raised his arms in his suite to a roar of cheers, earlier than making a coronary heart signal along with his fingers. The Payments protection restricted the Bengals to a discipline aim, and trailed 17-7 on the half.

STREAKS AND STATS

The Bengals prolonged their franchise-best streak to 10 straight wins. They haven’t misplaced since a 32-13 defeat at Cleveland on Halloween. The Bengals’ 30 first downs had been a franchise postseason file.

They had been essentially the most allowed by the Payments since permitting 30 in final yr’s playoff loss at Kansas Metropolis.

The Payments dropped to 13-2 when internet hosting an NFL playoff sport. They usually had been 4-0 underneath McDermott.

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