The four teams headlining Saturday’s wild NFL doubleheader know each other well, but prior history didn’t change the outcome of Saturday’s first playoff game.
The Cincinnati Bengals beat the Las Vegas Raiders for the second time this season, 26-19, in their wildcard matchup on Saturday.
The New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills, two AFC East rivals, met twice in the regular season, splitting those games, with each team winning on their opponent’s home court.
A rematch and the final game of this season’s trilogy await. Here’s a look at how the first games of the 2022 NFL Playoffs unfolded.
Cincinnati Bengals 26, Raiders 19
A large majority of players on both of these teams had never played in a playoff game, but one team gained valuable preparation for its playoff run.
The Bengals’ 26-19 win over the Raiders at Paul Brown Stadium on Saturday, the franchise’s first playoff win in 31 years, could prove valuable experience when Cincinnati hits the road next week in the Divisional Round.
The Raiders, a franchise that hadn’t made the playoffs since 2016 and last won a playoff game in 2002, suffered from a lack of rest and preparation that showed.
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Quarterback Joe Burrow led the Bengals’ powerful offense by scoring in all four possessions in the first half, connecting for touchdowns with receiver Tyler Boyd and tight end CJ Uzomah. The Bengals had a harder time moving the ball in the second half, and were slowed by at least one undelivered penalty against the Raiders.
But Burrow, who finished with 244 yards on 24 of 34 passes without interceptions, provided just enough offense to counter the Raiders, who moved the ball much better in the second half thanks to big plays from quarterback Derek Carr. of running back Josh Jacobs, and several critical penalties on the Bengals. The Bengals defense held off Carr and the Raiders, who mounted a feverish comeback attempt, down 26-16, in the fourth quarter with no timeout and less than two minutes left.
Carr kept the game close, hitting DeSean Jackson on a pass to convert fourth-and-fifth from the Raiders’ 44-yard line. The Raiders threw a field goal with less than four minutes left to cut their deficit to 26-19.
The Bengals drained more than two minutes down on the ensuing possession, but couldn’t score. Rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase finished with nine catches for 116 yards.
The Raiders got the ball back on their own 35-yard line with 1:51 left. Carr hit Jacobs for a 15-yard gain and the Bengals were charged with a passer-roughing penalty, bringing the Raiders past midfield. Without any downtime, Las Vegas had little room for error, and the weight of Cincinnati’s past playoff failures added to the drama.
But on fourth base from the Bengals 9-yard line, Carr was intercepted, ending the Raiders’ upside-down season and sealing the long-awaited playoff victory for the Bengals.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
8:15 p.m., CBS
The Bills (11-6) have won four of their last five regular season games to capture the AFC’s third seed. The Patriots (10-7) went 2-3 to close the season and finished with the No. 6 seed.
They meet at Highmark Stadium on Saturday where the temperature is expected to be in the single digits with a wind chill around minus 10-15 at kick-off.
That means this game could look a lot like the one the teams met in early December, when Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones attempted just three passes in a violent, violent game in New York. New England won, 14-10, with over 200 rushing yards.
The Patriots could be without starting cornerback Jalen Mills, who was added to the reserve/Covid-19 roster on Tuesday, which would be problematic for a secondary that already lacks depth in the corner position.
New England traded Pro Bowl defensive back Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers during training camp. Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in October. Mills and cornerback JC Jackson were the centerpieces of the Patriots’ thin secondary.
Still, the Patriots’ defense allowed just 17.8 points per game, the second-lowest total in the league (Buffalo allowed 17.0). The Bills finished the regular season with one of the best defensive units in the NFL, leading the league in several defensive categories, including fewest yards allowed per game and fewest passing yards allowed.
In the teams’ second meeting, the Bills forced one of Jones’ worst performances of the year in a double-digit win. Jones completed 14 of 32 passes and threw two interceptions in the game.
Buffalo’s offense, led by quarterback Josh Allen, has been inconsistent this season, but the threat of the connection between Allen and receiver Stefon Diggs remains. In that win at Gillette Stadium, Diggs had six catches for 85 yards and a touchdown.