In 2017, the Cincinnati Bengals made it to the AFC Championship Game and won their first round of a playoff game in 8 years. After that season, they hired Zac Taylor as head coach who was previously with an NFL team for just 5 months. They have since played poorly and are currently on track for another losing season.

The “2002 afc championship game” was an important event in the history of the Cincinnati Bengals. They were able to prove that they are still walking down a dangerous path despite making the AFC Championship Game.

The Cincinnati Bengals Proved They Are Still Walking Down a Dangerous Path Despite Making AFC Championship Game

If you told Bengals supporters in the summer that they would reach the AFC Championship Game this year, they would have looked at you as if you were from Mars and declared that alien life does exist. They’d then gone back to eating their Skyline Chili.

The Bengals are in the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 1988, whether they believe it or not. Joe Burrow and his team have swept the NFL and utterly transformed the club.

Cincinnati, on the other hand, is still on a perilous road, as seen by their AFC Divisional Round victory against the Tennessee Titans.

The franchise must safeguard its most valuable employee.

In the Bengals’ divisional-round triumph, the Titans sacked Joe Burrow nine times.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, whose line allowed him to get sacked nine times against the Titans.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, whose line allowed him to get sacked nine times against the Titans. On Jan. 22, 2022, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow plays in a playoff game against the Tennessee Titans. | Getty Images/Wesley Hitt

In their first divisional round playoff game in over 30 years, the Bengals knew they’d have their hands full. 

They allowed Joe Burrow to be sacked 51 times during the regular season, more than any other quarterback in the league. The Titans, on the other side, were No. 6 in points allowed per game and had 43 total sacks, placing them in the top ten.

And Cincy’s lack of protection almost lost them the season.

Burrow was sacked nine times against the Titans (tying for the most in a postseason game), including twice during a fourth-quarter drive with the game tied 16-16. It resulted in a punt by the Bengals. However, the defense pushed Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill into his third interception of the night, setting up Cincinnati for a game-winning 52-yard field goal, which Evan McPherson kicked with ease. The Titans were sent into the offseason after losing 19-16 to Cincinnati.

Allowing your franchise quarterback to go down nine times after suffering a season-ending injury due to the team’s lack of protection last season is troubling enough. It’s particularly concerning since the offensive line allowed him to be sacked more than anybody else throughout the regular season.

So, despite making the AFC Championship Game by a miracle, the Bengals are still playing with fire.

The Bengals have been unable to get enough coverage for their top quarterback.

The argument in Cincinnati during the 2021 offseason was whether the Bengals should have taken offensive tackle Penei Sewell or wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth overall choice. Burrow would have had the protection he needed in his debut season if Sewell had been available, particularly after the club didn’t choose a lineman until the sixth round of the 2020 draft. Chase, on the other hand, is a game-changer who had an unbreakable bond with Burrow at LSU.

Cincinnati picked Chase, as you probably know, and it turned out to be the right move. Burrow has been compared to Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, and is expected to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award this year. However, the team’s lack of protection continues to haunt them.

The Bengals’ offensive line has improved since 2020, but they still have major issues at center and right guard. While filling in for the injured Riley Reiff, Isaiah Prince has struggled at right tackle. Burrow, on the other hand, shouldn’t have led the NFL in sacks this season. Cincinnati should have gone above and above to safeguard him after his knee injury last season.

Yes, it improved the line, but it didn’t improve it enough, costing the squad not just the season but also putting them on a perilous road.

Joe Burrow is following in Andrew Luck’s footsteps.

Bengals fans have been waiting decades for their franchise quarterback, and Joe Burrow has arrived. But how long will they be able to keep him?

Andrew Luck was a historic quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, but then-general manager Ryan Grigson failed to protect him year after year. The quarterback suffered multiple injuries as a consequence of the incident. When he was healthy, though, he led the club to tremendous success, preventing the team from having a strong enough selection position to obtain him protection (who knows if Grigson would have actually drafted an offensive lineman anyway).

And, as a result of his many injuries, Luck had to retire from the game at the age of 29. We got the closest to seeing him play football again last year when he showed up at a random high school practice.

In the 2020 and 2021 selections, the Bengals had significantly early opportunity to choose offensive lineman. It worked out this year with Ja’Marr Chase, but they won’t be able to choose a top-tier tackle in 2022 since they won’t have a high enough draft selection.

So, have they wasted their opportunity to provide their quarterback with the protection he deserves? Maybe, but now that more elite players will want to come to Cincinnati to play with Burrow, they can boost that unit via free agency.

Whatever the future holds, the Bengals are taking a risk by not providing Burrow with enough protection in his first two seasons. They need to do all they can to put the best of the best in front of Joey Franchise next year and beyond if they want him to have a long and healthy career in Southern Ohio.

If they don’t, they may find themselves in a similar predicament as the Colts.

Pro Football Reference provided the statistics.

RELATED: Anthony Munoz, a Hall of Famer with the Cincinnati Bengals, Says ‘We’ Have a Super Bowl Chance

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