With the aid of a deafening Paul Brown Stadium record crowd of 66,277, the Bengals won their first playoff game in the building and first in 31 years to move to next week's AFC Divisional on Saturday when they held off the Raiders, 26-19, on linebacker Germaine Pratt's interception at the Bengals 2 with 12 seconds left.
Quarterback Joe Burrow, getting 116 more yards from rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, went 24 of 34 for 244 yards and two touchdowns and, for the fifth straight game, no interceptions. But they needed that furious red-zone stand to win and bury the ghosts under the two-yard-line.
Losing two of their best pass rushers in the first moments of the second half, the Bengals scrapped to force Daniel Carlson's fourth field goal of the game, a 28-yarder that cut it to 26-19 with 3:34 left.
With the crowd ringing in his ears, left end Sam Hubbard made it possible when he knocked down Derek Carr's third down pass with his helmet in front of the biggest crowd since 66,188 watched a Bengals-Steelers game on Oct. 28, 2007. Carr threw it the last 24 snaps in a game the Bengals led for the final 50 minutes and threw one more interception than Burrow on 29 of 54 passing for 310 yards.
But the Bengals could get just five yards when they got the ball back and had to punt it back on the first play after the two-minute warning.
The Bengals opened the second half going five-for-five scoring when they had the ball, but a 29-yard completion to Chase was erased when the Raiders got in a late timeout and they got Evan McPherson's third field goal to go up 23-13, instead
But the Bengals were getting devastated up front. Already down two defensive linemen, early in the second half they lost their starting-three technique having such a brilliant year when Larry Ogunjobi left on a cart with a right ankle injury. That left them with just two tackles, D.J. Reader and B.J. Hill.
And then their best pass rusher, Trey Hendrickson, who just set their single-season sack record with 14 and had a sack strip earlier in the game, left to be evaluated for a concussion.
So down 10 as the game lurched into the fourth quarter, the Raiders turned to running back Josh Jacobs and he barged into the fourth with 83 yards on 13 carries and ended the game that way. One play after slot cornerback Mike Hilton went off the field with an injury, Carr picked on his replacement on fourth-and-three, Vernon Hargreaves III, and drew an 11-yard pass interference while he was covering tight end Foster Moreau.
But the Raiders couldn't overcome three holding penalties in the drive and needed Carlson's third field goal to cut it to 23-16 with 14:07 left in the game.
The Bengals needed a drive and got it. But, as it was all night, the red zone was their Achilles' heel. For the third time against the Raiders' last-ranked red zone, they had to settle for a field goal and when Evan McPherson rung up his fourth of the game, the Bengals had a 26-16 lead with 6:46 left.
Naturally the big play was Burrow's back-shoulder throw to Chase on third-and-and-seven that went for 19 yards and put him over 100 yards. During the drive running back Joe Mixon (48 yards on 17 carries) had to go to the bench to get his ankle taped. On third-and-one from the 13, they tried to send him wide on a pitch and they stopped him.
Burrow looked as cool as ever in his first half of postseason football as the Bengals scored on all four possessions. He rung up a 128.5 passer rating on 12 of 18 for 146 yards and two more touchdowns, including a masterful drive late in the first half that put them up 20-6.
With the Raiders playing that stubborn two deep shell, Burrow beautifully split it down the seam on a 29-yarder to tight end C.J. Uzomah. On the fringe of the red zone, Burrow took the snap under center on fourth-and-one and went wide on a jet sweep to Chase for 15 yards.
Then on third-and-four from the Raiders 10 with 1:51 left in the half, Burrow stepped up in a caving pocket and took off to his right, looking, looking, looking. Just before he stepped out of bounds, he corkscrewed a touchdown to slot receiver Tyler Boyd open in the middle of the end zone on a play the Bengals apparently caught a break because there was a whistle.
But then the Bengals let the Raiders off the hook like they did the entire first half. After leaving eight points in the red zone, the Bengals allowed Carr to go 80 yards in a minute-and-a-half for a touchdown that cut it to 20-13. The killer was Carr's 20-yard scramble on third-and-10 and to throw in some bad karma, he made a great 14-yard touchdown throw to the nephew of former Bengals quarterback Jeff Blake with 14 seconds left. Zay Jones made an equally good leaping catch in the face of tight coverage by cornerback Eli Apple.
The Bengals got the first turnover of the game on the Raiders' second series and it was set up by the crowd forcing a false start. Then on third-and eight Trey Hendrickson came off the right edge roaring past Moreau for a sack-strip gobbled up by Ogunjobi for a 11-yard return that put it on the Raiders 15.
But right guard Hakeem Adeniji false started on third-and-short to lead to the first red-zone failure. Burrow had nowhere to go on third down, threw it away and McPherson hit the chip shot to make 10-3 late in the first quarter.
Then the Bengals missed a golden chance to put in a dagger. Raiders kick returner Peyton Barber made a blunder when he stepped out-of-bounds at his own 2. Throw in another crowd-induced false start and Carr was backed up and on third down thrown into the end zone on Hubbard's sack that forced for a punt from the back line.
But the Bengals couldn't take advantage of the drive start at the Raiders 45 despite Burrow's 28-yard pass to Chase that put the ball on the Vegas 6. But on third down from the 4, the Raiders forced Burrow to pump and left end Maxx Crosby got the sack to force another McPherson chip shot to make it 13-3.
The Bengals defense got gouged in the run on the next series when Jacobs went untouched over the Bengals left side for 35 yards. Cincinnati was undermanned in the middle, beginning with tackle Josh Tupou (knee) on the inactive list. Then early on, his replacement, Mike Daniels left with an apparent groin injury on the first series.
The Bengals did force a field goal on the sequence to make it just 13-6, largely because Hilton was able to fend off the much bigger Moreau in the end zone on second down.
On the game's first drive Burrow went after the Raiders singling up Chase on cornerback Brandon Facyson and hit him three times for 37 yards. But it took Burrow's seven-yard rope to tight end Uzomah on third down to get the game's first score.