CINCINNATI — They finally did it. The Bengals broke the longest drought in professional sports when they won a playoff game for the first time in more than 30 years Saturday night, beating the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19 in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs.
The game was the first time the two teams have met in the postseason since January 1991, when the Raiders started the Bengals' losing streak.
The Cincinnati Bengals are still in the hunt for their first Super Bowl championship.
Coach Zac Taylor said game balls were going to team owner Mike Brown and to the city itself.
“Some of them might not understand the significance of what happened today,” he said of his players. “The city can finally enjoy ... this team and take the pressure off of the last 31 years. Today was significant for a lot of people.”
The Bengals had to survive a Raiders drive to the 9-yard line, but Derek Carr was intercepted on fourth down by Germaine Pratt.
“I think Germaine has made a really big step this year, Taylor said. ”I thought last year was a good step, I think this year he has made a tremendous jump. Super reliable for us.”
Helped by some problematic officiating by Jerome Boger’s crew that might have allowed Burrow’s touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd to count when it shouldn’t have, the Bengals also extended a lengthy postseason drought for the Raiders (10-8).
Las Vegas, which won its final four games to squeeze into the playoffs, last won in the postseason in the 2002 AFC championship game.
Cincinnati made it 4 for 4 on scoring drives late in the first half, though with some controversy. Burrow rolled right to avoid pressure and threw from close to the sideline. Play continued despite an erroneous whistle by an official, who thought Burrow stepped out of bounds. Boyd caught the 10-yard pass in the back of the end zone for a 20-6 lead. The play counted, to protests from the Raiders, who cited the rule that the ball should be returned to the previous spot.
And Las Vegas lost by seven points.
“It’s a great win for us, for the city, for the organization,” said Burrow, the top overall selection in the 2020 draft who led the NFL in completion percentage this season. “But we expected this, so it’s not going to be a big celebration like it was when we won the division. We took care of business. It’s on to the next round.”
While this squad has already captured the hearts of fans everywhere, Bengals greats like Hall of Famer Anthony Muñoz said Cincinnati's young core has the chance to go even further.
"I wouldn't doubt that they can be an '81 Bengals team, or an '88-89 Bengals where no one gave them a shot and [they] run the table," Muñoz said.
Joe Walter, another Bengal who played the last time Cincinnati won a playoff game, said it is easy to see how the team can continue to exceed expectations with talent like rookie Ja'Marr Chase.
"If you remember, he came in and said, 'I'm gong to break all kinds of records.' Well, he's already done that as a rookie," Walter said. "And you know, put that with Uzomah, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, Mixon — that whole group right there, I would hate to be a defensive coordinator."
Cincinnati's next opponent depends on the results of (3) Bills vs. (6) Patriots and (7) Steelers vs. (2) Chiefs. The top-seeded Tennessee Titans will take on the lowest seed, with the other two teams facing each other. The Bills and Patriots play Saturday at 8:15 p.m. on CBS. The Steelers and Chiefs play Sunday at 8:15 p.m. on NBC.