ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Jackson Carman brushed off the notion he and his fellow replacement players on the Cincinnati Bengals offensive line might have had something to prove in their divisional round game at Buffalo on Sunday.
The Bengals already have managed to overcome adversity at other times this season, including the past two games missing starters, so why would this be any different?
Despite outside questions about whether the offensive line could hold up with three backups playing, Cincinnati rolled to a 27-10 win over second-seeded Buffalo on Sunday at Highmark Stadium. Joe Burrow enjoyed arguably his best playoff performance to date while taking just one sack, outside the pocket, and Joe Mixon rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown as the Bengals thrashed the second-best scoring defense in the league.
“I think we’ve got a great leader on the O-line in Ted (Karras), running and calling all the shots, and offensive line coach Frank (Pollack) is always going to get us right on the looks, so as long as we are putting in the work, we will be fine,” Carman said. “Really good job staying together as a unit.”
Karras, a captain, said he gets too much credit for the offensive line’s performances. This time, Carman, right tackle Hakeem Adeniji and right guard Max Scharping deserved the attention for stepping up in a big-game situation and helping the offense run smoothly.
Burrow completed his first nine passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter, as the Bengals took a 14-0 lead, and Mixon was averaging 6.1 yards per carry in the first half with nine carries for 55 yards before the Bengals even needed to chew up the clock in the second half to preserve their lead.
“We knew we had a big task on our shoulders against a great defensive front with three (new) guys coming in, and the biggest moment in our football lives up until this point, so unbelievable performance,” Karras said. “I’m so proud of the guys.”
Karras did his part even while banged up, too. He got his right knee taped in the second quarter and was noticeably limping, but trainers “made it better” during halftime, he said, and there was “no way” he was sitting out with three other linemen already down.
Carman was getting his first start at left tackle in place of Jonah Williams, who dislocated a kneecap in the wild-card win over Baltimore last week, and his only blip was a false start in the red zone just after the two-minute warning at the end of the first half.
Snowy conditions might have made it difficult for Buffalo’s pass rushers to get their footing, as they only got to Burrow on a play he was trying to make outside the pocket, but in those same conditions, the Bengals defense got plenty of pressure while recording eight quarterback hits and one sack. Burrow had two throw-aways under pressure and took three hits — a far cry from the nine sacks he took in the divisional round game at Tennessee last year.
Carman, had struggled at right guard as a rookie last year, felt more comfortable at his natural position, especially with some extra work with Pollack during and after practices last week. He said all he did was “rely on teammates, trust in God and go out and execute,” but Karras thought he did more than that.
“I think Jackson Carman showed he is a left tackle in this league,” Karras said. “Quite a performance by those guys.”
Burrow said he felt nothing from his left side all game, and as a whole, it was one of the best performances from the offensive line this season.
The offensive line’s run blocking was just as notable as Burrow staying upright, though, especially considering the ground attack had been almost non-existent in recent weeks. Mixon hadn’t crossed 100 yards since Week 9 and only came close one other time since then when he had 96 yards on 14 carries against Cleveland on Dec. 11.
Buffalo had the fifth-best run defense stats in the league, allowing 104.6 rushing yards per game this season. Cincinnati finished with 172 yards rushing.
“We lost three key linemen, and the backups came in and worked their asses off,” Mixon said. “They were balling, they were mauling guys and I’m so happy for them.”
Carman said the offensive line will “put in even more work this week to expect the same results” at Kansas City.
About the Author