CINCINNATI — Sam Hubbard returned Tyler Huntley‘s fumble 98 yards for a tiebreaking touchdown in the fourth quarter, helping Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens 24-17 in an AFC wild-card game on Sunday night.
Facing third-and-goal at the 1 with about 12 minutes left, Huntley tried to go over the top of the line for the go-ahead score. But he was stood up by Germaine Pratt and stripped by fellow linebacker Logan Wilson.
The ball went right to Hubbard at the 2, and the defensive end took off down the field for the longest fumble return for a touchdown in NFL postseason history. It also was the longest go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter in the postseason.
Moments after the play by the Cincinnati native, with the Paycor Stadium crowd of 66,399 still buzzing, Hubbard sucked on oxygen as he sat on the bench on the sideline.
“Just a credit to whoever punched that ball out. I was in the right place at the right time,” Hubbard said.
Baltimore drove down to the Cincinnati 17 in the final minute, but Kevin Zeitler was flagged for holding and Huntley threw incomplete to the end zone on the final play.
Playing behind a patchwork offensive line, Burrow passed for 209 yards and a touchdown for the AFC North champions. He also had a 1-yard touchdown run a week after the Bengals beat the Ravens 27-16 in the regular-season finale.
“Hard-fought. That’s how it is in the playoffs, especially when you play a divisional team for a third time,” Burrow said. “It’s never going to be easy. They know us. We know them. It’s nice to get the win.”
Next up for Cincinnati (13-4) is a trip to Buffalo for a rematch of their Week 17 game that was canceled after Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field. With Hamlin watching from home, Buffalo advanced with a 34-31 victory over Miami on Sunday.
Playing without Lamar Jackson once again because of the quarterback’s knee injury, Baltimore (10-8) managed two offensive touchdowns for the first time since Nov. 27. Huntley passed for 226 yards and two TDs, but he also had a costly interception.
Hubbard’s dramatic trip to the end zone sent the Ravens into a uncertain offseason centered around the future of Jackson, who is eligible for free agency. The 2019 MVP got hurt during a 10-9 win against Denver on Dec. 4, and he did not travel with the team to Cincinnati for the playoff game.
Huntley was intercepted by Cincinnati linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither on the second attempt of his first postseason start. The Bengals turned the miscue into Burrow’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Marr Chase early in the second quarter, but they had to settle for a 9-0 lead after Evan McPherson missed the extra point.
Huntley stepped up after the early trouble, leading the Ravens on a 17-play, 75-yard drive that lasted more than 10 minutes. J.K. Dobbins got Baltimore on the board when he stretched the ball over the goal line for a 2-yard touchdown reception.
A fumble by former Baltimore tight end Hayden Hurst set up Justin Tucker’s 22-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half, giving the Ravens a 10-9 lead at the break. The biggest play of the scoring drive was a 19-yard reception by Josh Oliver after Huntley had to run back to recover a high snap that went off his hands.
The Bengals lost left tackle Jonah Williams to a left knee injury in the first half. They already were playing without right tackle La’el Collins and right guard Alex Cappa due to injuries.
Baltimore had been 6-0 on the road in wild-card games.
The Bengals are going to Buffalo to take on Josh Allen and the AFC East champion Bills (14-3).
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