CINCINNATI — It seems to happen every game.
It’s not the amazing scrambles and passes from quarterback Joe Burrow.
It’s not the fabulous catches from wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
And it’s not the clutch field goals from kicker Evan McPherson.
But the defensive plays and turnovers created by the Bengals defense happen every single game.
And Sunday’s AFC Wild Card 24-17 win over Baltimore at Paycor Stadium was no exception.
The Ravens were poised to take the lead.
They were on the Bengals’ one-yard line with momentum behind them.
Quarterback Tyler Huntley took the snap and dove over the pile of linemen, and extended his arms with the ball in an attempt to break the goal-line plane.
But Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson met Huntley in the air, and punched the ball out and into the lap of defensive end Sam Hubbard.
The former Ohio State Buckeye and Cincy native took off and sprinted the length of the field for the 98-yard TD and the 24-17 lead.
That play was the longest game-winning fumble return in NFL postseason history.
“Just being in the right place at the right time and got a few blocks along the way,” Hubbard said about his fumble return for the score. “I was just worried about getting tracked down from behind, but I made it to the end zone.”
Hubbard wasn’t the only Bengal who was worried about him getting caught from behind.
“Run faster, Sam. Go. Get there!” Burrow said with a laugh, when he later recapped his thoughts as Hubbard dashed down the field toward the end zone.
The Ravens had put together a long drive and were trying to punch the ball in to take the lead.
Instead, the Who Dey faithful saw a 14-point difference.
“That changed the momentum of the game,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “You’re looking at a 14-point swing right there. Looking at going down seven to going up seven. It was a challenge on offense tonight … and our defense carried us in the fourth quarter.”
For Wilson, who punched the ball loose, it was just another defensive play.
“We have a tough, resilient defense,” he said “We bend but we don’t break. We play with high effort. There was a lot of space for (Huntley) to get to the goal line and it was all timing on my part. I was ready for it.”
The defense will really have to step it up this week in Buffalo because the O -line is hurting.
Guard Alex Cappa missed Sunday’s game because of an ankle injury, but is expected to suit up.
Toward the end of the regular season, the team lost tackle La’el Collins.
And on Sunday, it appears the team will be without tackle Jonah Williams, who went down with an ugly knee injury.
“It’s next man up,” Taylor said. “Our offensive linemen are fighters. They’re fighting right now. We go with who’s healthy right now and get them ready.”
For now, the Bengals enjoyed the shocking way they won against Baltimore on Sunday night.
But it’s not a surprise to the defensive unit, which seems to make play after play.
Two weeks ago, it was Jessie Bates and Von Bell who took the limelight.
A few weeks prior, it was Cam Taylor Britt who caused a crucial fumble.
And who can forget when Germaine Pratt made his incredible interception against Tom Brady and Tampa Bay?
But on Sunday night, the major defensive play was all Hubbard, thanks in part to Wilson’s awareness.
“I was pretty gassed leading up to that play,” he said. “But to be the guy who comes through is an amazing feeling.”
Now let’s hope for more Burrow scrambles and TD passes.
Let’s hope for more dynamic catches from Chase.
And let’s REALLY hope McPherson can turn his foot around and stop missing PATs.