by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
For the second Saturday in a row, the Bengals' dynamic duo Joe Burrow and Ja'marr Chase accomplished yet another major milestone in their own personal history-making, record-breaking journey together: 2022 is just their first ever postseason run, and they've now won the franchise's first ever road playoff game, leading the way for Cincinnati's first AFC title appearance since 1988.
Of course, Joe and co's 19-16 win was anything but straight forward.
With many analysts, fans, fiending NASCAR meth crusaders, and stark-raving gamblers fervently picking against Burrow's Bengals, facing an experienced playoff team on the road and a vicious Tennessee defensive front, Cincy had it all stacked against them.
At the end of the 60 minute bloodbath, 3 Titans' turnovers from QB Ryan Tannehill and another young Bengal, rookie kicker Evan McPherson, would settle matters in dramatic last second fashion; however, our former Tigers made crucial contributions to win their second playoff game in two weeks.
Joe Burrow rode a violent wave to victory, taking a historic punishment over 4 quarters from Mike Vrabel's rampant Titans' defense. Suffering 12 hits, a postseason record-tying 9 sacks, while being continuously pressured (15 times), the Tigers' former Heisman / National Championship-winning QB tossed 28 completions out of 37 attempts for 348 yards, his first ever 300 yard outing in the postseason, 109 yards to his LSU cohort Ja'marr Chase.
Despite 3 crucial drops, 2 by Tee Higgins and Samaje Perine's interception assist, Burrow completed 13 first down strikes, evaded pressure for positive plays on 6 occasions, adding 6 converted 3rd downs through the air (highlighted by a few clutch grabs by CJ Uzomah).
The LSU Legend is fast becoming a Bengals Legend as well...and it's only year two in what should be a long career full of moments much like Saturday.
Chase eclipsed 100 yards for the second straight playoff game, becoming the first ever rookie receiver in NFL history to record 100+ yards in his first pair of playoff appearances....
Is there anything this young receiver can't do??
Is there a record he can't break?
I wouldn't bet against him.
Squaring off head to head against childhood friend / fellow Rummel High Raider and LSU Tiger teammate Kristian Fulton, starting cornerback for Tennessee, Chase caught two passes for 61 yards on his good friend, including a blistering 57 yard screen pass.
The 57 yarder was Chase's first action of the game, and once he caught the football with a brilliant adjustment, he juked Fulton to the inside, completely shaking his fellow 2019 Tiger out of his socks. The former 5 star corner tracked Chase down after the play and the two met face mask to face mask, Chase laughing, Fulton clapping, and the two giving each other some competitive jarring.
Every LSU Tigers fan had to be proud in that moment.
Chase made a number of huge plays throughout the day, catching 5 of his 6 targets for 3 first downs, a trio of plays over 19 yards, averaging 21.8 per grab.....but it was his final reception which would prove most critical:
Once Cincy's MVP Logan Wilson intercepted Tannehill at the Bengals' 47 yard line with 20 seconds left, this was the moment Burrow and Chase were waiting for; after 3 1/2 quarters earning every single yard and suffering through brutal hits, it was a quick and painless throw to the outside from Joe to Ja'marr which settled matters.
The easiest play all game arrived due to seamless execution and route-running, Chase's hip swivel sending his defender yards back as he turned to the outside, allowing separation for a huge 19 yard catch, setting up shop at the 34.
After Mixon gained 2 yards up the gut, Cincy killed the clock, only for McPherson's right leg to boot Joey B, Tyler and Ja'marr to the AFC Championship Game.
Active in only his 4th game as a professional, Shelvin helped make a few critical stops on Titans' RB Derrick Henry, headlined by a double team he wrecked on a pivotal 4th and 1, limiting the former Bama foe to just 62 yards.
It was a moment Shelvin can build from heading into a colossal game vs another 2019 legend, Clyde Edwards-Helaire's Kansas City Chiefs.
Regardless of the Bengals' control over 4 quarters, Burrow's first ever playoff interception (due to Perine's dropped pass) almost spelled doom for Cincy:
Catching the bouncing ball right as the pigskin touched the ground, a controversial late 4th quarter call failed to overturn Amani Hooker's ground-assisted interception from Perine's drop, giving Tannehill a short field and the ball, down 16-9.
In just 2 quick plays, Vrabel's Titans equalized 16-16.
Following consecutive Cincy punts (caused by Tennessee's unceasing front pressure), things looked dire as Tannehill marched down the field; Unless Logan Wilson made that interception, Joe Burrow doesn't get the ball back in regulation...and if Wilson fails to intercept Tannehill's batted pass, perhaps the game heads to an uncertain overtime conclusion....
But no......destiny was on Joe's side....and when given another opportunity, Burrow's savage out pass to Chase (setting up the game-winning field goal) not only clinched victory, the play quenched his lust for vengeance, battling against his own rare mistakes.
I find it remarkable how Joe Burrow and Ja'marr Chase continue their ascent, climbing even greater heights...possessing their shared eternal destiny...can anyone stop them??
In a winner-take-all AFC Championship Game within the confines of Arrowhead Stadium, can the Chiefs shut down the Bengals' freight train this coming Sunday?
It will be an incredible chess match between Joe Burrow & Tyrann Mathieu, as well as LSU's next Defensive Coordinator, Chiefs' LBs Coach Matt House; first, Mathieu must clear concussion protocols, but if he can, we will witness arguably the two greatest Tigers of all time facing off against each other with a Super Bowl appearance on the line....
Joe & Ja'marr's 2021/22 campaign is already the greatest season in Bengals' history since 1988....keep that in perspective....1988 is before Home Alone, When Harry Met Sally & Die Hard II arrived in theaters, 1988 is before this author was born....1988 is before Axl Rose's plastic surgery....1988, when Reagan was still in office.....and yet against a possibly banged up Chiefs' secondary, this title game is a chance to elevate the Bengals to a level unattainable before: ultimate Super Bowl deliverance:
In 2022, Joe Burrow and Ja'marr Chase are giving the long suffering city of Cincinnati something they'll never forget, while supplying LSU fans with a de ja vu all too familiar....
Championships are won...banners can be hung aloft...but legends are never forgotten...legends never die...
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2022 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
3 First Downs
-57 yd screen (on Fulton; almost scored)
-rush for 2
-1 yd FR
-4 yd (on Fulton)
-21 Yd Catch (made 2 def. tackle each other)
-8 yd -HUGE 19 yd grab to set up GW FG
13 1st Down Comps.
6 3rd Down Comp. Convs.
6 Comps. of 15+ Yds
5 Comps. of 20+ Yds
12 QB Hits
9 Sacks (NFL record)
Evaded Press. 5x
WR Drops: 3 (1 led to INT)