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The AFC divisional playoff between the Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans was brought to you by the number nine. Even The Count would be amazed at all the counting we did Saturday when it came to the Titans sacking Joe Burrow.
The Bengals allowing nine sacks in and of itself is quite the feat, and not in a good way. The fact that it happened in the playoffs, on the road, is another. But the fact that the Bengals actually won a playoff game, on the road, while allowing nine sacks is just unheard of.
In fact, the Bengals became the first team ever to win a playoff game in which they allowed nine sacks. The previous record was eight, when the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Green Bay Packers, 20-17 in the 2003 NFC divisional playoffs, aka the “4th and 26” game. And that was in Philadelphia. The Bengals did this in front of a raucous crowd in Nashville.
And that doesn’t even include some of the shots Burrow took throughout the game that weren’t sacks, even on plays that should have been blown dead before the snap.
That’s a testament to Burrow, who stood tall and finished 28/37 for 348 yards and a 93.1 quarterback rating despite the nine sacks. And the Bengals really needed Burrow in this one.
To put things into perspective, the Bengals lost more yards on sacks (68) than they gained rushing the football (65). Joe Mixon had just 54 yards on 14 carries but did score the Bengals’ only touchdown of the game.
Burrow didn’t throw a touchdown pass and did throw an interception (that may or may not have been an interception, but that’s neither here nor there now). But Burrow made the throws he needed to today and took care of the football, unlike his opposition in Ryan Tannehill, whom the Bengals picked off three times, including incredible interceptions from Jessie Bates, Logan Wilson and, perhaps the best interception of the three, Mike Hilton.
Despite sacking Tannehill just once (and it was Vonn Bell of all people), the Bengals rattled Tannehill enough and the defense made some huge stops when they needed them, including an early two-point conversion try by Derrick Henry and a fourth and short later in the game.
In writing about why the Bengals can beat the Titans, we wrote this on Burrow:
Cincinnati is going to live and die with Joe Burrow. And there’s a very valid argument to make that he is the better quarterback in this matchup. Plenty of people would probably agree with that opinion. Burrow is on a mission and if he keeps up the pace he has been on, that mission will take a trip to either Kansas City or Buffalo next week for the AFC Championship Game. Cincinnati can absolutely beat the Titans Saturday and if they do, it’ll be thanks to good old No. 9.
So the number nine really became the number of the day for the Cincinnati Bengals. And now, in just eight days, No. 9 for Cincinnati will play for a spot in Super Bowl LVI. Aren’t numbers just swell?