When incumbent Jonah Williams
became the third starting offensive lineman to get ruled out of the lineup last week, the Bengals turned to a mostly disappointing second-year lineman, Jackson Carman
, who’d be starting his first career game at left tackle. The old man of the line, center Ted Karras
, told me post-game, “I told the guys this week, ‘The pressure’s off, guys. No one thinks we can do it. We have a chance to go be heroes.’ And we did.”
Then Karras thought for a second. “Well, gotta give a shoutout to the defense as well. Come on, holding Josh Allen
to 10 points? At home? In the playoffs? In the sleet? With that crowd against us?”
Good points. But the Achilles of the Cincinnati team was supposed to be, left to right, Carman, Cordell Volson
, Karras, Max Scharping
and Hakeem Adeniji
. And so what happened? Burrow tightened up his game, throwing the ball at a breakneck average of 2.50 seconds from the time of snap in 39 pass drops; on one throw (I’ll explain), he hit Ja’Marr Chase
in a startling time of 1.10 seconds after taking the snap—the fifth-fastest time for a third-down conversion this season, per Next Gen Stats.
Even though Burrow was quick off the draw, the line held up well, and illustrated how big the loss of Von Miller
to ACL injury in midseason was to the Bills. Carman especially. In Burrow’s 39 dropbacks, Carman allowed just one pressure on Burrow. “In this league,” Karras said, “that’s a big, big deal. That’s taking advantage of a massive opportunity. After the game, I told him how proud of him I was. I think he proved that he’s a tackle in this league.
“And you know, on the biggest stage of all of our football careers up to this point, he performed when it counted the most. He’s had a transformative year and this was a transformative day for him, being in the spotlight and performing at the highest level.”