The NFL has put together six remarkable playoff games, and it’s been quite a long time since there has been a run that impressive. Every single game has come down to the final possession, including two overtime contests.
The games have had it all:
Elite quarterbacks… Huge second half comebacks… and massive defensive plays.
And some notable Ohio State Buckeyes were at the heart of many of those plays.
The Cincinnati Bengals have had to rebuild their entire team over the last three years. They drafted DE Sam Hubbard in 2018 and Joe Burrow (who began his college career at OSU) in 2021 and acquired safety Vonn Bell and CB Eli Apple in free agency this past offseason. They also pulled offensive tackle Isaiah Prince off the scrap heap and inserted him into the starting lineup.
Each of these players had their own moments of greatness on Sunday. Let’s take a look:
While Hubbard is a solid pass rusher, Pro Football Focus consistently grades him near the top for his play against the run. He tied for second on the team Sunday with 8 tackles, but it was his play against Mahomes that was truly legendary. Hubbard’s second sack of the day couldn’t have come at a bigger moment. While Kansas City was attempting to score a touchdown on the 3rd down of their final possession in regulation, Hubbard was “spying” Mahomes. As the play broke down, Hubbard shot through the line, unfazed by Mahomes’ attempt to shake him. Not only did Hubbard produce a massive sack, but he also batted the ball out and nearly prevented the game-tying field goal.
Throughout his career, Apple has been plagued by penalties and the deep ball. That wasn’t the case on Sunday. Despite a pass interference in the endzone that set up a great scoring opportunity for the Chiefs before the end of the first half, Eli stepped up with a game-changing play. With 5 seconds on the clock and the ball on the 1 yard line, Kansas City elected to try for a touchdown instead of the sure 3 points. Pat Mahomes threw a swing pass to the electric Tyreek Hill, and with no room for error, Apple stepped up and denied the score. It was the turning point in the game, as the Chiefs didn’t score another touchdown.
The big hitting safety was a patrolling force throughout the middle of the field. He did a great job of ensuring that the Chiefs’ offense wouldn’t produce the big plays they have made all season. His 6 tackle were big, but his interception in overtime likely saved the day for the Bengals. Bell caught the carom off a deflected pass attempt to Tyreek Hill, a great play that handed the ball back to Joe Burrow with a good chance to end the game.
It’s usually better for an offensive lineman not to have his name mentioned during a game… and sadly, Prince’s name has been mentioned all too often throughout the playoffs. However, on Sunday against an impressive defensive line, Prince played well. The Bengals’ offensive line gave up just one sack against the Chiefs, after surrendering 9 against the Titans. Prince did an admirable job of holding down his side of the line of scrimmage, and he protected Burrow on the game-winning drive.
While the Bengals quarterback didn’t finish his career at Ohio State, he does have a diploma from there. Joe Burrow was lights out when his team needed him the most. Whether it was through the air or scrambling for huge 1stdowns, Burrow has changed the fortune of an entire city. He has taken a team that was a perennial joke around the NFL and put them 60 minutes away from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.