Hubbard’s heroics lift Bengals to AFC playoff win


CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard scooped up a fumble by Baltimore Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley, and rumbled 98 yards to secure the 24-17 AFC Wild Card playoff win on Sunday night at Paycor Stadium.

The game-winning return is the longest in NFL postseason history, and sends the Bengals to New York to take on the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional round next Sunday.

Huntley tried to extend the ball over the goal line for a touchdown to try to tie the game in the fourth quarter — when Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson punched the ball out of his grip.

Hubbard said he was in the right place at the right time.

“Credit to Logan Wilson for punching the ball out. The ball fell right in my lap,” he added. “Everybody just has that mentality that we are going to scratch, claw and do whatever we can and never give up a yard or anything free.”

Wilson timed the play perfectly, and knocked the ball out of Huntley’s grasp as he tried to leap over the pile.

“We pride ourselves on making those plays when it matters the most,” Wilson said. “We just have a tough and resilient defense. We bend but we don’t break.”

The Bengals defense staved off a final push from Baltimore’s offense, and deflected the last pass in the end zone for the win.

“This is right up there with one of the greatest games I’ve been involved with,” Cincinnati cornerback Mike Hilton said.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow completed 23 of 32 passes for 209 yards and one touchdown.

Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase pulled in a seven-yard strike from Burrow with 14:56 to go in the first half to give Cincinnati a 9-0 lead.

Chase ended the game with nine catches for 84 yards.

“All that matters is that you come out with the win,” Burrow said after the game.

He added he was not surprised by the goal line stand that produced the go-ahead score.

“Run faster Sam. Go. Get there,” he said with a laugh, when asked what went through his mind when Hubbard dashed off with the ball. “He actually did look pretty fast.”

The Bengals (13-4) were in control of the game before Huntley mounted a second-half comeback.

With 2:13 to play in the third, he pump-faked, causing Bengal cornerback Eli Apple to bite, and found Demarcus Robinson on a 41-yard TD pass to tie the game 17-17.

But that was the last time Baltimore (10-8) scored.

“Our defense had a terrific second half,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “And that’s why you never give up on defense. You just never give up on any drive.”

The Bengals took a 3-0 lead with 8:22 in the first quarter when kicker Evan McPherson booted a 39-yard field goal.

Burrow then led a 10-play drive that covered 60 yards and that featured five completions, a 13-yard pass to tight end Hayden Hurst, and the TD pass to Chase for the 9-0 lead.

Baltimore countered and put together a 17-play drive that ended in a score when Huntley connected with running back J.K. Dobbins on a two-yard touchdown pass to close the gap to 9-7.

The Ravens took a brief 10-9 lead when Justin Tucker connected on a 22-yard field goal before the break.

With 5:02 left in the third, Burrow plowed into the end zone from one yard out, and then found Tee Higgins for the two-point conversion and the 17-10 lead.

“This is one of the best defenses we have faced all year,” Taylor added. “On offense we struggled at times, but our defense today carried us through, especially in the fourth quarter. We needed that.”

The Bengals will play in the AFC Divisional round at Buffalo on Sunday at 3 p.m.

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