Updated: Feb 12, 2022
Hear me out! I am not trying to suggest that the Bengals’ O-line doesn’t have problems. It’s been bad. You’ve probably heard by now: the Bengals surrendered nine sacks to a strong Titans front in Saturday’s Divisional Round game. That's bad.
What I want to convince you of is that the Bengals can still beat the Chiefs despite the O-line’s issues. That even if the Bengals give up another nine sacks in the AFC Championship, they can still go into Kansas City and win at Arrowhead.
Let’s start with the obvious: the Bengals just gave up nine sacks in a playoff game and won. It’s that simple. They did it once, they could do it again.
Now, this is not an advisable strategy by any means. The odds of hitting green on roulette are pretty low. I wouldn't recommend doubling down.
But the fact remains: they did it once, they could do it again. My larger point is that the Bengals haven’t really allowed offensive line issues to disrupt their larger offensive performance in games this year.
Take the Bengals’ win against the Chiefs in week 17 for example: the Chiefs sacked Burrow four times in that game for 31 yards. The Bengals still won. The Vikings had five sacks in week 1 for 44 yards. The Ravens had three for 27 in week 16. The Broncos got three for 21 in week 15. The common thread here: the Bengals still won all these games.
To be fair, the Bengals gave up six sacks against the Chargers, five against the 49ers, and five in their week 9 matchup against the Browns. Sacks definitely played a big role in those losses. However, there’s another common theme in all of these games: turnovers.
Against the Chargers, Burrow threw a bad interception in the red zone and two different bobbles, one on a catch by Ja’Marr Chase that turned into another Burrow pick and one on a Joe Mixon handoff which was returned by the Chargers for a touchdown, set the team back. Against the Niners the Bengals fumbled the football four times, losing it twice. And against the Browns, Joe Burrow began the day by throwing a pick six on the first drive of the game.
In the Bengals’ previous two playoff games, they have just one turnover. They didn’t turn the ball over against the Chiefs in week 17. In fact, the Bengals have turned the ball over once since week 14 against the 49ers. That was December 12, folks. Joe Burrow has been nearly flawless for over a month.
Has the Bengals offensive line been flawless? No. Resounding no. But they don’t have to be. That’s the beauty of this team. When one unit is struggling, other units will step up. Against the Titans, the Bengals’ defensive line stepped up in a huge way. Against the Raiders, it was Germaine Pratt and the linebackers who made huge plays. And in the Bengals’ previous matchup versus the Chiefs, it was the Joe to Ja’Marr connection and a tremendous effort by the entire defense in the second half that made the difference.
The offensive line hasn’t been good, but they have stepped up in big moments. When the Bengals needed to get into field goal range for Evan McPherson’s 52-yard winner last Saturday, Burrow had a nice clean pocket to work with as he found Chase for the sideline dagger. When the Bengals faced the Raiders all week all anyone could talk about was Maxx Crosby, Yannick Ngakoue and how the Raiders D-line would roast the Bengals’ protection. The Raiders only got to Burrow twice and hardly affected the game at all.
It will not be easy winning at Arrowhead. It gets loud there. So loud that apparently everyone on TV needs to remind everyone exactly how freaking loud it gets. Way louder than any SEC stadium. Don’t worry that Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa has a capacity of over 101,000. Or Death Valley in Baton Rouge holds over 102,000. Even the Swamp in Gainesville holds over 88,000. Arrowhead? It holds about 79,000. But the experts say that Arrowhead still out louds everyone. Sure.
All I can say is that Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and the rest of your 2021 Cincinnati Bengals won't allow noise to stop them from winning the AFC Championship game. The Bengals’ offensive line won’t stop them either. It hasn’t let them down so far.