Wild Card playoffs: Bengals beat Ravens on record-setting defensive touchdown

CINCINNATI — Make it nine straight. The Cincinnati Bengals continued their franchise-record win streak into the playoffs and advanced out of the wild-card round for a second consecutive season.

And once again, it was a big play on defense that won the game.

With the Baltimore Ravens about to take the lead in a tie game early in the fourth quarter, the Bengals got a record-setting defensive touchdown that ended up being the difference as they beat the Ravens 24-17 in their AFC Wild Card playoff game Sunday night at Paycor Stadium.

Baltimore quarterback Tyler Huntley lost the ball trying to raise it over a pile at the goal line in an attempt to break the plane, and Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard recovered and returned it 98 yards for a touchdown, giving Cincinnati a seven-point lead with 11:39 left. Logan Wilson punched the ball loose with help from Germaine Pratt, and Hubbard’s fumble return was the longest for a touchdown in NFL playoff history.

The teams traded punts as time ticked away in the fourth quarter, and Baltimore got the ball back with 3:18 left for one last comeback attempt but Cincinnati held on for the win. A fourth down pass to the end zone fell incomplete as time expired. The Bengals now advance to face the second-seeded Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional Round next weekend.

Cincinnati was in need of a boost from the defense after letting go of a 9-0 lead in the second quarter and trailing 10-9 at halftime. The Bengals got a quick stop to begin the second half, then regained the advantage at 17-10, on Joe Burrow’s 1-yard scramble and two-point conversion pass to Tee Higgins.

However, Baltimore responded with a 41-yard touchdown pass from Huntley to a wide open Demarcus Robinson, who beat Eli Apple down the left sideline, and the Ravens forced a three-and-out on the next drive. The momentum was all in their favor until the turnover.

Cincinnati had a costly miscue of its own right before halftime, which allowed the Ravens to take their first and only lead. As the Bengals were driving for a chance to extend a two-point lead with less than three minutes left in the second quarter, tight end Hayden Hurst ended up losing a fumble at the end of a six-yard catch on third-and-16, and left tackle Jonah Williams went down with a left knee injury that sidelined him the rest of the game.

The Ravens took over at the Cincinnati 44-yard line and drove down for a go-ahead field goal from Justin Tucker in the final seconds before halftime. The Bengals also lost cornerback Eli Apple to an injury that drive after he collided with teammate Joseph Ossai, but he returned in the second half.

The Bengals had taken their 9-0 lead early in the second quarter on Burrow’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Marr Chase after linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither picked off Huntley to set the offense up at the Cincinnati 40-yard line. Evan McPherson missed the PAT but had made a 39-yard field goal to cap the opening drive.

Baltimore responded with a 17-play, 72-yard drive to get on the board with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Huntley to J.K. Dobbins, but the Bengals’ defense would have limited the damage to a field goal had rookie Dax Hill not been called for a facemask to negate Ossai’s sack on third down. Hurst’s turnover set up a 22-yard field goal from Tucker to give the Ravens the lead.

Cincinnati, which beat Baltimore last week in the regular-season finale, earned its first playoff win since 1990 on the same date last year, beating the Las Vegas Raiders to begin a run to the Super Bowl.

The Bengals now hit the road to face the second-seeded Bills, who held off a comeback attempt by Miami in the first game of the day, winning 34-31, to set up the matchup with Cincinnati three weeks after the teams’ regular-season game was halted in the first quarter because of the on-field collapse of Bills safety Damar Hamlin.

That Week 17 game ended up canceled, but the teams can finally see how they stack up against one another with a spot in the AFC Championship on the line. Kansas City hosts Jacksonville in the other AFC Divisional matchup.


Sam Hubbard: The Bengals defensive end made the play of the season with his decisive 98-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.


1/4: The Ravens scored just one touchdown on four red-zone trips in the game.

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