ORCHARD PARK, NY _ If anything, Joe Burrow knows the calendar and he broke into a wide smile Sunday after leading the Bengals through a swirling snow shower into next week’s second straight AFC title game in Kansas City after the Bengals’ dominant 27-10 Divisional win over the stunned Bills and their mourning-hush fans at Highmark Stadium.
“It was awesome,” said Joey Frost, when asked about his first snow game. “It felt like football in Dece—I guess its January, almost February. That was fun.”
In fact, you can add “The January Man,” to Burrow’s list of nicknames after he extended his streak of wins in December and January to 13. His dozen wins put him on a list of just six other quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era. The Bayou legend showed his cold-weather Ohio DNA on his first nine passes. As the snow swirled, he got hotter. He hit all nine, two for touchdowns for 105 yards to six different receivers as the Bengals knocked the Bills flat, 14-0, in the first 9:31.
“Snow doesn’t affect the ball too much,” said Burrow after his bloody-efficient 101.9 passer rating consisting of no turnovers, those two touchdowns and 23 of 36 passing for 242 yards. “It might get a little wet, but it’s not rain or wind or anything like that. We’re confident in just about any weather that there is.”
Confidence is a good place to start defining this team. Head coach Zac Taylor is now 3-0 in AFC road playoff games after a near Bengals’ record postseason performance of 412 yards, 172 coming in the sudden re-emergence of the running game. And with the defense stifling Bills quarterback Josh Allen on 325 yards like he’s never been stuffed before in the playoffs, the Bengals took particular delight in shocking the experts with as complete a victory as they’ve had in the three seasons of Burrow Ball. (The Bengals’ postseason record is 439 yards in the 2013 Wild Card loss to the Chargers.)
“We came into their home field, they put up 10 freaking points and we got 27 and we’re on to KC and that’s all that matters,” said nose tackle DJ Reader. “You can count us out, you can count around. Bengals ain’t this, Bengals ain’t that. We just keep showing up and keep playing on Sunday.”
O-LINE OPUS: The Bengals re-configured offensive line, with three injured starters down, came up with one of the great chapters in Bengals history. With sophomore Jackson Carman making his first NFL start at left tackle (“I barely felt anything from over there”-Burrow), right tackle Hakeem Adeniji making his third start of the season and right guard Max Scharping making his second Bengals start, Burrow got sacked once, running back Joe Mixon jetted to his first 100-yard game since Nov. 6 and there were no holding calls and just two false starts up front in the mighty Highmark sound machine.
“Pass blocking. Run blocking. That’s as complete a game they’ve had year,” Burrow said.
Carman hosted his family and old high school coach for his 23rd birthday.
“I’m going to celebrate it with my boys,” Carman said. “Anytime you can run the ball like that, that helps everyone.”
Plus, center Ted Karras played in pain for the last three quarters or so when he twisted his knee. He emerged from the medical tent with a knee brace, clicked it on and enjoyed this win immensely because his last two seasons ended here disastrously. He says he’ll be fine, but he admitted as he walked off the field at halftime he felt like “Peg Leg Pete.”
“To rush for over 170 yards in this environment, to handle the noise the way they did, to protect Joe the way they did, I thought our offensive line was outstanding,” said head coach Zac Taylor said of the offensive line. And that’s a credit to Duke (Tobin) and the way he’s attacked the draft and attacked all the roster management to get the right guys in here so we can endure situations like this, (offensive line coaches) Derek Frazier, Frank Pollack, ( and) Justin Hill, our running backs coach, they did a great job getting those guys ready and they executed when they needed to.
ELI’S APPLE: The Bengals are furious the way they’ve been treated by the league, believing there should have at least been a coin flip for the home field for this one and cornerback Eli Apple said it all smoking a cigar.
“Naaah,” said Apple as he smirked when asked if they used it for motivation. They lost a lot of money, so I love that… We’re the big dogs and we’re not done yet.”
Zac Taylor couldn’t hide his sarcasm when asked about the tickets that will have to be refunded for that neutral site AFC title game in Atlanta between the Chiefs and Bills.
“We keep screwing up the plans,” said Taylor, who also noted the phantom coin toss. “Sorry.”