BUFFALO, New York — Next week’s Bengals-Bills rematch almost didn’t happen.
On Sunday, both teams ran past undermanned opponents, beating backup quarterbacks and advancing to the AFC divisional round.
The Bills opened with a 17-0 lead against Miami and had to rally for a 34-31 victory. The Bengals then trailed the Ravens by 1 yard in the fourth quarter before Sam Hubbard returned it 98 yards for the decisive score and Cincinnati barely held on for a 24-17 win.
This time, the Bengals will visit Buffalo. The two met in Cincinnati on Jan. 2 when the game was halted after Bills quarterback Damar Hamlin collapsed and had to be resuscitated on the field in the first quarter. Hamlin is home after a remarkable recovery.
The Bills (14-3) faced No. 7 seed Miami, a 13 1/2-point underdog. The Dolphins, who started rookie third-down back Skylar Thompson, took a 24-20 lead in the third quarter when Josh Allen was sacked and Zach Siler scored on a 5-yard run.
But Thompson, a seventh-round pick starting his third game since injuries to Tua Tagavailoa and Teddy Bridgewater, had an interception on third-and-19 from his 8, leading to a short field and a good score for the Bills.
“It was a bad decision on my part,” said Thompson, who was 18 of 45 for 220 yards with one TD and two interceptions. “Just learning the situation we’re in … I’ve just got to understand the situation out there and just get yards and position on the field and not force anything. It hurts. But you just have to learn from it. “
Allen and the Bills were sloppy and fell out of rhythm despite gaining 423 yards. Allen had two picks that led to 11 points before his fumble led to another touchdown.
“At the end of the day, all that matters is winning the game,” Allen said. “If it’s one or 100, it’s week-long seasons now. All that you have. Win or go home.”
The Bills have to play much better to beat the Bengals. The same goes for Cincinnati.
The Bengals (13-4) fell behind Baltimore 10-9 after taking a 9-0 lead. They were lucky it wasn’t 14-9 at halftime because the Ravens went for a first-down 3 and settled for a field goal.
Tied at 17 in the fourth quarter, the Ravens brought the Bengals to 1. But Tyler Huntley, filling in for the injured Lamar Jackson, lost the ball as he extended it and jumped on the goal line.
The Ravens had players behind Huntley ready to push him into the end zone, but the third-year pro decided to try to jump.
“We just didn’t execute it right,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Tyler was off the charts. It was made to go low.”
The Bengals couldn’t get anything going on offense the rest of the game, punting the ball three times and gaining 19 yards to keep the Ravens on the field.
In the final minute, Huntley forced Baltimore to drive to the Cincinnati 17 before penalties and incompletions set up a fourth-and-20 from the 27. Huntley’s desperation pass into the end zone bounced off the hands of Ravens’ James Proch.
“Our defense really held us in the fourth quarter,” Bengals coach Zach Taylor said.
The Bengals will need Joe Burrow and the offense to get back on track after gaining just 234 yards for a touchdown against the Bills.
The Bengals have won nine in a row, while the Bills are on an eight-game winning streak. One series will conclude next Sunday.
While the Dolphins and Ravens couldn’t get the offense going, Daniel Jones and the New York Giants played the right things against the Minnesota Vikings.
The 9-win Giants beat the 13-win Vikings 31-24 thanks to a stellar performance by Jones, who threw for 301 yards and two TDs in his playoff debut. The Giants will face the No. 1 seed Philadelphia Eagles.
After Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers swept Seattle to open the wild-card weekend, the next four games were decided by scores. Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night to determine which team will face the Niners next.
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