Who Dey! Bengals win first playoff game in 31 years

Cincinnati holds off Las Vegas 26-19 in AFC Wild Card Game

Credit: AJ Mast

Credit: AJ Mast

CINCINNATI -- The “curse” is broken. Thirty-one years after a defeat to the Los Angeles Raiders began the Cincinnati Bengals’ playoff losing streak, Cincinnati finally ended the drought.

Cincinnati took a lead in the first quarter and held on for a 26-19 win over the Las Vegas Raiders in a Wild Card game Saturday in front of a sellout, record crowd of 66,277 at Paul Brown Stadium. It marks the city’s first major postseason victory since 1991 when Bo Jackson suffered a career-ending hip injury against the Bengals to begin the so-called “curse.”

Despite going ahead for good at 7-3 with 4:31 left in the first quarter, the Bengals’ cushion never was comfortable. They settled for field goals on four drives, including three trips into the red zone, and couldn’t shake the Raiders while also having to overcome a rough outing for the officiating crew.

Las Vegas cut a 26-16 lead down to seven points with 3:34 left and got the ball back with 1:51 on the clock for one last chance to tie it. The Raiders made it as far as the 9-yard line before Germaine Pratt intercepted the fourth-down pass with 12 seconds left. Cincinnati lost Trey Hendrickson and Larry Ogunjobi to injuries.

Cincinnati’s largest lead was 20-6 with 1:51 remaining in the first half after Joe Burrow hit Tyler Boyd on the run for a 10-yard touchdown that sparked controversy because of an inadvertent whistle before Boyd caught the pass. But Derek Carr led the Raiders on a touchdown drive to end the half, and Cincinnati could only get a field goal on the opening possession of the second half.

Fortunately, the defense did enough to hold Las Vegas at bay. Vernon Hargreaves was flagged for defensive pass interference on a fourth-and-third at the Cincinnati 36-yard line late in the third quarter to give the Raiders another shot, but Germaine Pratt stopped Darren Waller well short of a first down to force a field goal attempt, which Daniel Carlson put through the uprights to make it a seven-point game with 14:17 left.

Cincinnati made it to the 10-yard line on the next drive but again relied on Evan McPherson to put points on the board. His fourth field goal was for 28 yards to make it a 26-16 lead with 6:46 remaining and that was enough. Vegas only managed a field goal on the ensuing drive and ran out of time on the comeback attempt.

The Bengals scored on all four of their complete possessions in the first half; however, they missed opportunities early to blow open the game on two drives that began on Las Vegas’ side of the field. Trey Hendrickson’s strip-sack fumble, recovered by Ogunjobi, gave the Bengals the momentum four plays after C.J. Uzomah’s 7-yard touchdown catch from Burrow put them ahead 7-3 on their first series.

The turnover set the Bengals up at the Raiders’ 15-yard line and only resulted in McPherson’s 31-yard field goal. A Sam Hubbard sack at the half-yard line after a Raiders’ mistake on the kick return forced Las Vegas to punt, and Cincinnati again had good field position but failed to get more than three points out of it.

Those missed points could have mattered in the end.

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