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Bengals stop Raiders late, end 32-year playoff win drought

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The streak is over. 

The Cincinnati Bengals beat the Las Vegas Raiders, 26-19, in Saturday’s wild-card matchup, earning their first postseason victory and ending an eight-game playoff losing streak that dated back more than three decades.

The game came down to the final moments, partially thanks to a questionable roughing-the-passer call against the Bengals on Raiders QB Derek Carr and keeping alive a game replete with shaky whistles. But Carr took advantage, converting 3rd and 17 and 3rd and 10 passes on their last drive to keep the Raiders alive.

It took three stops by the Bengals’ defense on goal to go from their 9-yard line to seal the franchise-changing win. Carr was picked on fourth down by Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt.

The Bengals last won a playoff game 32 years and nine days ago, so long that it came against a now-defunct team, the Houston Oilers. Only two active Bengals players — punter Kevin Huber​​ and long snapper Clark Harris — were alive. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor was seven years old.

Bengals QB Joe Burrow was efficient, completing 24 of 34 passes for 244 yards and two TD passes, including a controversial one. Rookie kicker Evan McPherson made all four of his field-goal attempts.

The Raiders’ drought without a postseason victory is now 20-plus years and counting. Penalties really did them in, even if the officiating also was pretty questionable — for both teams.

Carr was game for the Raiders, completing 29 of 54 passes for 310 yards and a touchdown, rallying them from down 10 points in the fourth quarter. But he also forced the game-sealing INT into traffic on the game’s penultimate play. 

The Bengals took control early with a 13-3 lead, riling up the largest crowd in Paul Brown Stadium history. But it could have been more.

CINCINNATI, OHIO - JANUARY 15: Quarterback Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after throwing a first half touchdown pass against the Las Vegas Raiders during the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

CINCINNATI, OHIO – JANUARY 15: Quarterback Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after throwing a first half touchdown pass against the Las Vegas Raiders during the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

After the Bengals took a 7-3 lead following a brilliant opening drive — and a terrific tribute to the “Ickey Shuffle” by C.J. Uzomah on the touchdown — Trey Hendrickson sacked Carr, forcing a fumble and giving Cincinnati the ball on the Las Vegas 15-yard line on the recovery and return by Larry Ogunjobi.

But the Bengals stalled and could only muster a field goal, and they tacked on another field goal on their next possession after the Raiders went three and out. Cincinnati drove to the Vegas 4-yard line, but a Joe Burrow sack on third down forced them to take a 13-3 lead.

The Raiders bounced back with a 35-yard kickoff by Tyron Johnson and a 35-yard Josh Jacobs run. But the promising possession ended in a Daniel Carlson field goal, cutting the Bengals’ lead to 13-6.

The Bengals faced a 4th and 1 at the Raiders’ 31 and had no interest in a field goal this time. Instead, they ran a toss sweep to Ja’Marr Chase, who rumbled 15 yards for a first down. Three plays later, Burrow was drifting out of bounds as he hit Tyler Boyd for a 10-yard score to give the Bengals a 20-6 lead.

CINCINNATI, OHIO - JANUARY 15: Quarterback Derek Carr #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders throws a first half pass against the Cincinnati Bengals during the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

CINCINNATI, OHIO – JANUARY 15: Quarterback Derek Carr #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders throws a first half pass against the Cincinnati Bengals during the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

The Raiders had reason to complain on the Bengals’ TD, however, as a referee — believing Burrow was out of bounds — loudly blew his whistle, perhaps causing the Raiders’ defenders to stop playing. The NFL’s rulebook indicates that the play should have been blown dead, but Jerome Boger’s crew allowed the touchdown to stand.

With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, the Raiders kept the game within reach. Carr converted three third-down throws and drove the Raiders 80 yards on 11 plays in one minute, 38 seconds, hitting Zay Jones on a 14-yard TD to cut the Bengals’ halftime lead to 20-13.

The Bengals tacked on another McPherson field goal on their opening drive of the second half, increasing the lead to 23-13. The Raiders looked to be back in business on their next drive, with Hunter Renfrow’s 22-yard catch on 3rd and 4 putting them at the Cincinnati 35-yard line. But the play was reviewed, and it was ruled that Bengals safety Jessie Bates III punched the ball out before Renfrow had full possession.

After the Bengals went three and out, the Raiders drove to the Cincinnati 9-yard line — despite two first downs negating would-be Raiders first downs. They also converted a 4th and 3 at the Cincinnati 36-yard line thanks to the Bengals committing pass interference. 

But another Raiders penalty wiped out a run to the 1-yard line, and they had to settle for Carlson’s third field goal, making it 23-16, Bengals. At this point in the game, all five starting offensive linemen for the Raiders had been flagged for at least one penalty.

The Bengals milked more than seven minutes of the clock and made it a two-score game with just under seven minutes remaining, with McPherson’s 28-yard field goal upping the lead to 26-16.

The Raiders gave themselves a chance, converting a 4th and 5 at midfield and tacking on another Carlson field goal to make it a one-score game.With only one timeout remaining, the Raiders were able to stop the Bengals and get the ball back with less than two minutes left.

That’s when Cincinnati’s defense clamped down and earned a victory few Bengals fans will forget.

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