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Cincinnati native Sam Hubbard grew up a die-hard Bengals fan. On Sunday night, with the Bengals’ AFC title defense facing huge danger, the hometown kid made the game-winning play that will go down in both Cincinnati and NFL postseason history.

With the score tied in the fourth quarter of the Bengals’ Super Wild Card Weekend game against Baltimore, Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson lost the ball to Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley just short of the Cincinnati goal line. The loose ball was picked off by Hubbard, whose 98-yard punt return, the longest in playoff history, served as the game-winning score in the Bengals’ 24-17 win.

Cincinnati then picked up its third win of the season over Baltimore when the Bengals defense picked off Huntley’s Hail Mary throw in the end zone on the final play.

Baltimore, which dominated the opening quarter of the game, stormed back to take a 10-9 lead. Baltimore responded with Ja’Marr Chase’s 7-yard touchdown catch early in the second quarter, a 17-play drive that was capped by JK Dobbins’ 2-yard touchdown run. They took their first lead after Kyle Hamilton’s forced fumble on Hayden Hurst set up a Justin Tucker field goal just before halftime.

The two teams traded scores in the third quarter before Hubbard secured the game-winning score. Cincinnati will now travel to Buffalo for next week’s AFC Divisional Round showdown.

Here’s a closer look at the Bengals’ wild win.

Why did the Bengals win?

Cincinnati dealt with the loss of its third starting quarterback in as many weeks when Jonah Williams was injured in the first half. Barrow, who was sacked three times in the first half, was sacked just once in the second half.

Baltimore’s defense was mostly solid, but they had no answer for Chase, who put Cincinnati up 9-0 with his seven-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. The Pro Bowl wideout finished the game with 84 yards on nine catches.

Burrow didn’t light up the Ravens defense during the regular season like he did in 2021. However, Burrow enjoyed his best game of the year against a Ravens defense that featured defensive backs Hamilton. Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey. Burrow completed nearly 72% of his passes while leading three long scoring drives.

Much like their offense, the Bengals’ defense didn’t play their best game Sunday night. But they came up big in crunch moments, highlighted by Hubbard’s record-tying score. Cincinnati’s defense held Baltimore to 3-for-11 on third down and 1-for-4 in the red zone.

Why did the Ravens lose?

Credit to Baltimore for giving the defending AFC champions all they could handle despite playing without former league MVP Lamar Jackson. The Ravens dug themselves out of an early hole, increasing their physicality on both sides of the ball.

Baltimore showed considerable resolve after falling behind early and on Burrow’s 1-yard run early in the second half. Three minutes after Burrow’s score, Huntley threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson to tie the score heading into the final quarter. At that point the game should have been won.

Hubbard’s punt, however, turned the game around after Baltimore drove 80 yards to the Bengals’ 1-yard line. The two teams then traded cards until Robinson was unable to counter Huntley’s Hail Mary as time expired.

Dobbins did his part, with 105 all-purpose yards that included a deft 27-yard catch that set up Baltimore’s only touchdown of the half. But he was a non-factor on the Ravens’ final three drives as Cincinnati’s defense put the Ravens’ fate in Huntley’s hands.

Huntley, for his part, finished in what was the ninth start of his career with 226 yards on 17 of 29 passing. He also rushed for 54 yards on nine carries.

A turning point/game

Hubbard’s touchdown capped a 14-point swing after the Ravens had marched nearly the length of the field. But instead of falling behind, the Bengals never trailed again after Hubbard posted the fourth-longest defensive score in playoff history.

Hubbard’s assist was impressive, but so was Wilson’s play, forcing the ball out of Huntley’s hands before the ball reached the goal line. The game capped off what was a big game for Wilson, who led both teams with 10 tackles.

Quotation marks

“Go, run faster. Play big time! Win us the game.” – Burrow, in a postgame interview with NBC, on what he thought of Hubbard’s game-winning drive.

“I like going on the road with this team. All we need is our mindset and I’ll go to war with these guys anywhere.” – Hubbard on next week’s game in Buffalo

What’s next?

The Bengals face the Bills next Sunday at 3pm ET. The Week 17 game between Cincinnati and Buffalo was canceled late in the first quarter due to Damar Hamlin’s medical emergency. Buffalo took an early lead against Miami on Sunday before holding on for a 34-31 win.

Baltimore will turn its attention to the offseason in what promises to be an important season for the Ravens. The biggest offseason story in Baltimore will certainly be the future of Jackson, who is set to become a free agent. The Ravens will likely apply the franchise tag to Jackson before the start of free agency to give the two sides four additional months to work out a long-term deal.


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