NFL: Bengals skate past Bills to reach another AFC title game


Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow wasn’t impressed by chatter about a possible neutral-field AFC Championship Game next week between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills.

But his postgame retort Sunday was as precise as many of his passes.

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“Better send those refunds,” Burrow said.

More than 50,000 fans will be watching for their direct-deposit refunds after Burrow passed for 242 yards and two touchdowns and the Bengals rolled to a 27-10 victory over the Bills on Sunday at Orchard Park, N.Y., to return to the AFC Championship Game for the second straight season.

Because of the situation in which Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest during a game in Cincinnati on Jan. 2, the Bills played one less regular-season game than the Chiefs. Because Buffalo defeated Kansas City in October, the NFL put together a potential neutral-site game in Atlanta as the solution to the homefield-advantage headache.

But the Bengals, who represented the AFC in the Super Bowl last season, torpedoed that plan with the dominating victory that included 30 first downs.

Cincinnati will visit the top-seeded Chiefs next Sunday in a rematch of last season’s AFC title game. The Bengals won that contest 27-24 in overtime.

“The job’s not finished. We have another big one next week on the road,” Burrow said. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere. Excited to play in it.”

Joe Mixon rushed for 105 yards and one touchdown in the divisional round contest as third-seeded Cincinnati recorded its 10th straight victory. Ja’Marr Chase and Hayden Hurst had scoring receptions for the Bengals, who prevailed during game-long snowy conditions.

Josh Allen was 25-of-42 passing for 265 yards and one interception and rushed for a touchdown for second-seeded Buffalo. Stefon Diggs had just 35 yards on four catches and the Bills were outgained 412 to 325 while seeing their eight-game winning streak come to an end.

“We just couldn’t find it,” Allen said. “We had two early three-and-outs and stalled throughout the game. You can’t win football games that way.

“They had a great game plan. We were expecting their best punch and they came out and punched us.”

Buffalo had won 13 of its previous 14 postseason home games before coming up short Sunday.

“They played better than we did tonight, they coached better than we did tonight,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “Obviously, it’s a disappointing result. … In the moment, it stings.”

Hamlin attended the contest just 20 days after having his life saved on the field in Cincinnati.

“It definitely stings a little more to know this individual group went through so much and now the chapter is closed,” Bills veteran center Mitch Morse said.

Burrow completed 23 of 36 passes while increasing his franchise record for playoff victories to five.

The Bengals rushed for 172 yards and allowed just one sack despite being without three offensive line starters — left tackle Jonah Williams (knee), right guard Alex Cappa (ankle) and right tackle La’el Collins (knee).

“To rush over 179 yards in this environment and handle the noise the way that they did, protected Joe the way that they did, I thought our offensive line was outstanding,” Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said.

The Bengals led 24-10 after Mixon scored from the 1-yard line with 1:17 left in the third quarter. Mixon was initially ruled short of the goal line, but Cincinnati challenged the result and the call was overturned by the replay review.

Cincinnati’s Evan McPherson made it a three-possession game with a 20-yard field goal with 11:22 left in the contest.

The Bills came up empty on their next drive when Allen’s fourth-and-6 pass from the Bengals 16 fell incomplete with 7:23 remaining. Allen was picked off by Cam Taylor-Britt with 1:02 left.

Cincinnati had 18 first downs and outgained the Bills 274-135 in the first half to take a 17-7 lead at the break.

Burrow connected with Chase on a 28-yard touchdown pass on the game-opening drive and followed with a 15-yard scoring pass to Hurst on the second drive to make it 14-0 with 3:47 left in the first quarter.

Cincinnati posted 10 first downs in the opening period while Buffalo was outgained 160-8 without earning a first down. But the Bills put together a 15-play, 75-yard drive in the second quarter with Allen scoring on a 1-yard sneak with 7:25 left in the half.

Burrow and Chase nearly teamed up for a 10-yard scoring pass late in the second quarter, but a replay review displayed that Chase didn’t have possession of the ball while in the end zone. McPherson entered to kick a 28-yard field goal with 1:49 remaining.

Buffalo began the third quarter with a drive that took 7:18 but settled for Tyler Bass’ 25-yard field goal to trail 17-10.

–Field Level Media

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