Burrow overcomes nine sacks to lead Bengals to AFC title game

NASHVILLE -- Joe Burrow said after the game he was feeling fine physically, despite being sacked nine times in the Cincinnati Bengals’ divisional round playoff win Saturday, but “tomorrow may be a different story.”

The Bengals’ second-year quarterback overcame constant pressure from a dominant Tennessee Titans defensive line to put the team in a position to win. Burrow completed 28 of 37 passes for 348 yards, including a key 19-yard pickup to Ja’Marr Chase to move the Bengals into field goal range for Evan McPherson’s game-winner to beat the Titans 19-16 as time expired.

It was the first road playoff win for the franchise in its eighth attempt, and moves the Bengals into the AFC Championship next Sunday at Buffalo or Kansas City.

“The defense played unbelievable, and we made plays when we needed to on offense,” Burrow said. “It wasn’t always pretty good, but we got the job done. Like I’ve said all year, we can win a lot of different ways. The defense came up strong today. Unbelievable.”

Imagine what Burrow could have done with more time.

This is the first time a team has overcome nine sacks to win since the NFL officially began tracking sacks in 1982.

Defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons accounted for three of the sacks, Harold Landry and Denico Autry added 1.5 apiece. Three of the sacks came on third down, and three of them were for losses of 10 yards or more.

Burrow’s second sack taken came after he bobbled the snap, but Landry blew by Hakeem Adeniji so fast it wouldn’t have mattered if the snap had been clean. In the second quarter, he was sacked on a third-and-14 from the Tennessee 24-yard line for a 12-yard loss after the Bengals had just entered the redzone, but McPherson made a 54-yard field goal for a 9-6 lead going into halftime.

“Obviously, they came in a lot of different ways, some zero blitzes, there’s a lot of reasons for them, and we’re all going to take blame in that,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “We don’t want to have that. But our defense just allowed us to continue to play the way we wanted to play. … That’s one of the best defensive lines in football to be quite honest with you. We’ve got a respect for their team and their defense. They can get after the passer, and they did a great job in coverage too, mixing up some of the coverage looks and so we got to give credit to them. But we found a way to win and that’s all that matters.”

Chase said he was trying to run quicker routes to help Burrow get the ball out faster to avoid the pass rush, but the Titans just kept coming at him and all he could see was Burrow on the ground at times.

Running back Joe Mixon said Burrow deserves credit for fighting through setbacks like that, especially considering this time last year he was rehabbing a torn ACL and MCL. The fact he’s able to get up each time shows how hard he worked to strengthen his knee.

“I’m so happy for him because of all he’s been through, all he’s overcome,” Mixon said. “He was in a slouch with us – I mean, it wasn’t multiple years like me, Tyler (Boyd) and C.J. (Uzomah), but he’s been here, he’s witnessed it. And when I was on the sideline, probably about like 10-15 seconds left, I believe, when we took the ball back and Joey B went out there. And I’ll tell everybody all the time what surprises me the most about Joe Burrow -- and at this point it’s definitely not surprising because he does it time and time again -- is his poise under pressure. And I’m just so happy for him because all the work that he did put in this offseason, getting his leg right, trying to work on his arm, you know, building his body up so where he could take whatever happens to him, I mean, you just don’t know. He got sacked a couple of times. We’ve got to clean that up. But you know, by him overcoming all that he’s been through, I mean, I can’t do nothing but say that I’m proud of him.”

About the Author