Bengals vs. Bills scoring, takeaways: Joe Burrow-led Cincy dominates, earns AFC title game rematch vs. Chiefs

For the second straight year, the Bengals and Chiefs are fighting for the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. The Bengals, looking for a second consecutive Super Bowl berth, punched their ticket to Kansas City next Sunday after a 27-10 victory over the Bills in the AFC divisional round.

In the face of the Bills, a hostile crowd and constant snowfall, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was unflappable. He threw two touchdowns in the first half as the Bengals took a 17–7 halftime lead. Burrow had a lot of help from Joe Mixon, whose 1-yard touchdown extended Cincinnati’s lead to 24-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

Cincinnati’s defense contributed to the win by dominating Buffalo’s offense for much of the game. The Bengals baffled Josh Allen for most of the game while limiting Stefon Diggs to just 35 yards with four catches. Fittingly, Cincinnati iced the victory as rookie defenseman Cam Taylor-Britt took out Allen deep in Bengal territory with one minute remaining.

Here’s a closer look at what happened in Buffalo.

Why the Bengals won

Cincinnati had the superior quarterback in Burrow on this day, who improved his playoff record to 5-1 and 3-0 and the road. During the game, Burrow showed his peerless accuracy and often overlooked mobility to play for the Bengals offense.

As he often does, Burrow spread the wealth by making passes to eight teammates. His top target, Ja’Marr Chase, led the way with five catches for 61 yards, including his 28-yard touchdown catch that opened the scoring. Hayden Hurst also came out well with five grabs, including his 15-yard touchdown catch that stretched Cincinnati’s lead to 14-0.

The Bengals’ passing play was complemented by Cincinnati’s rushing offense. Led by Mixon’s 105 yards, Cincinnati fumbled for 172 yards on 34 carries. A major reason for Mixon’s success was the play of the Bengals’ rebuilt offensive line, which included 2021 second-round pick Jackson Carman, who made his first career start at left tackle on Sunday as they dealt with several injuries.

As they have during the Bengals’ 10-game winning streak, Cincinnati’s defense played an integral role in Sunday’s victory. Cincinnati took away Buffalo’s running play and limited Diggs’ impact in the passing game. The Bengals minimized the Bills’ big plays while putting constant pressure on Allen.

Why the bills lost

Buffalo, losing a home game for only the second time since the 1970 merger, failed to play complementary football. For example, Cincinnati’s two early touchdowns were sandwiched between a Buffalo three-and-out, while the Bills’ defense would have benefited by having more time off the field.

The Bills offense fell short again late in the first half after the defense forced the Bengals to settle for a touchdown after reaching the red zone. Buffalo’s lack of a physical running game, especially given the wintry conditions, came to light on Sunday.

The offense let them down, but the Bills’ defense isn’t flawless. After all, the Bills’ defense allowed Burrow to complete each of his first nine tries as Cincinnati took a big lead early on. They were pushed around by Bengal’s offensive line playing without three starters.

Turning point

Cincinnati’s hot start began to cool somewhat late in the first half after Chase’s touchdown was reversed. Buffalo didn’t necessarily benefit from a turnaround, but they did put a dent in the Bengals’ lead after kicking a field goal to start the second half, cutting their deficit to 17–10.

The Bengals didn’t let Buffalo get closer, as Burrow led a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Mixon’s short touchdown run. The big play of the drive was Burrow’s 13-yard completion to Hurst on third and 10 on Buffalo’s 40-yard line.

Game of the game

It’s nothing fancy, but Mixon’s brief touchdown run late in the third quarter epitomized what kind of play it was for both teams. The Bengals ran at will against Buffalo while the Bills could not come up with a splash play on either side of the ball.

Citable

“You better send those refunds.” Burrow told CBS Sports about the more than 50,000 tickets Bills and Chiefs fans bought in case the two teams faced each other in Atlanta in the AFC title game.

What’s next

Cincinnati will become the fifth team this century to play in consecutive Super Bowls. To do that, they will have to beat Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium for the second year in a row. The Bengals have prevailed in their matchups with Kansas City as Cincinnati has won three games in a row in the matchup, including the Bengals’ Week 13 win at home.

Once again, Buffalo will begin their off-season several weeks earlier than hoped. Receiver, a power running back, pass rusher (they get Von Miller back) and secondary are some of the areas the Bills are likely to strengthen during the off-season.

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