The Bengals are making their first appearance since the 2015 season and seeking the franchise’s first playoff win since the 1990 season. The then-Los Angeles Raiders started the Bengals’ current eight-game playoff losing streak with a 20-10 win in the divisional round on Jan. 13, 1991.
Las Vegas claimed the fifth seed with its 35-32 overtime win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night to set up a rematch with the Bengals, who beat the Raiders 32-13 on Nov. 21 in Vegas. That first matchup was an important one for Cincinnati coming out of a bye week on a two-game losing streak.
The Bengals took advantage of two turnovers to spark a 19-point fourth quarter and turned an otherwise close game into a blowout. They led just 10-6 going into halftime with help of three penalties on third downs that extended their two scoring drives, but after the strong finish, some believed at the time that game would be the one to set the path for a return to the playoffs.
Las Vegas had entered the game with a plus-1 turnover margin for the season, but Derek Carr threw an interception picked off by Eli Apple and lost a fumble on a Trey Hendrickson sack, recovered by Sam Hubbard, in the final five minutes. The Raiders were trailing just 22-13 before the first turnover, and Joe Mixon scored two plays later.
Evan McPherson kicked his fourth field goal of the day, a 47-yarder with 1:04 left, after Hubbard’s 43-yard fumble return. McPherson’s other three attempts were from beyond 50 yards, setting a record as the first in Bengals history to accomplish that feat.
That game also was memorable for Mixon, as he finished with 123 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries, despite struggling with negative carries and turf issues that limited him to 26 yards in the first half. He changed to cleats with longer spikes in the third quarter and said afterward that made a big difference.
Raiders tight end Darren Waller still gave the defense trouble, finishing with 116 yards on seven catches, and he again will be one to try to key in on Saturday. The defense otherwise played pretty solid, especially after allowing 511 yards to the Jets and 41 points to the Browns in the two games before that.
Cincinnati rested most of its starters on Sunday in its regular-season finale at Cleveland, and like Week 11, the Bengals will be facing Las Vegas coming off what essentially was a bye for many.
The Bengals watched the Sunday Night game waiting to see if they would play the Raiders or Patriots. Had the Chargers won or tied, the Patriots would have claimed the fifth seed and L.A. would have been the sixth seed. Las Vegas had to win or tie to get in and comes to Cincinnati on a four-game winning streak but following an emotional game that saw the Raiders lose a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter and come down to a last-second field goal in overtime.