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Cincinnati Bengals edge the Tennessee Titans 19-16 on a last-second field goal, advancing to their 1st AFC championship game in 33 years

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Cincinnati Bengals just keep ending postseason droughts, and their latest victory has them in their first AFC championship game in 33 years.

Rookie Evan McPherson kicked a 52-yard field goal as time expired, lifting the fourth-seeded Bengals past the top-seeded Tennessee Titans 19-16 on Saturday to end the NFL’s longest active road playoff skid.

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“He’s got ice in his veins,” Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said of McPherson. “There’s not much more to be said. He’s just as cool as it gets.”

A week after snapping a 31-year playoff victory drought, the Bengals (12-7) finally won their first road game in the postseason after losing their first seven. They reached the 1981 and 1988 Super Bowls by winning on their home field.

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The Bengals will play in the AFC championship game Jan. 30 at the winner of the Buffalo Bills-Kansas City Chiefs matchup Sunday in the other AFC divisional-round game.

The Bengals intercepted Ryan Tannehill three times, setting up two of McPherson’s four field goals. Logan Wilson picked off Tannehill with 20 seconds left at the Bengals 47. Joe Burrow hit Pro Bowl rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase with a 19-yard pass, then the Bengals ran twice to set up McPherson for the win.

“That’s a kicker’s dream,” McPherson said, “to have the game on your shoulders.”

Burrow shook off being sacked nine times as the Titans tied an NFL record held by four other teams for the most in the postseason. The Bengals’ second-year quarterback threw for 348 yards, and Chase finished with 109 yards receiving.

Joe Mixon ran for the Bengals’ lone touchdown, a 16-yarder on their first drive of the third quarter.

“We found a way all year,” Burrow said. “Man, crazy, crazy game. That’s a really, really good team. Unbelievable defensive line. They had a great plan on defense. Credit to them, we found a way at the end.”

The Titans (12-6) wrapped up their 25th season in Tennessee with their third straight loss on their own field as the AFC’s No. 1 seed. They haven’t won at home in the postseason since January 2003.

“I don’t think Ryan or myself or anybody did enough to win the game,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “That’s how it goes. It’s never going to be about one person, not as long as I’m head coach, which will be a while.”

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The Titans had Derrick Henry, the 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year, on the field after he missed nine games with a broken foot. He ran for a touchdown and finished with 66 yards.

Tannehill was picked off on the Titans’ first play. His second came on first-and-goal at the Bengals 9 in the third. He finished with 220 yards passing. A.J. Brown had five catches for 142 yards.

Burrow was the NFL’s most sacked quarterback during the season, just ahead of Tannehill.

The Titans sacked Burrow on his first snap and had three in the first quarter. Burrow joined Donovan McNabb as the only quarterback to be sacked at least eight times in the playoffs and win. McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles won 20-17 in overtime against the Green Bay Packers.

The Titans had plenty of opportunities to win.

Henry was stopped on fourth-and-1 at the Bengals 37 instead of the Titans trying a long field goal for the lead with 7:16 left. They also got the ball back with 2:43 left and plenty of time to drive for the winning field goal after scoring 10 points within 90 seconds late in the third quarter, tying it at 16.

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But the Titans showed little awareness of the clock, running only one play before the clock stopped for the two-minute warning. On the third play, Wilson picked off Tannehill’s pass intended for Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, setting up the Bengals for the winning field goal.

“All day we were just shooting ourselves in the foot,” Brown said of the Titans.

McPherson converted for his 11th field goal from 50 yards or longer, the most in a season for one player.

“He stepped up big and got us to where we need to go,” Burrow said.

The Titans’ five sacks in the first half were the most in a playoff game since Jan. 8, 2000, when they sacked Bills quarterback Rob Johnson five times in the game best known for the Music City Miracle. Burrow was only the third quarterback to be sacked at least five times in the first half of a playoff game since 1991.


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