Bengals offensive line issues sink Super Bowl chances against Chiefs

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) scrambles in the third quarter of the AFC championship NFL game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. The Kansas City Chiefs advanced to the Super Bowl with a 23-20 win over the Bengals. Cincinnati Bengals At Kansas City Chiefs Afc Championship Jan 29 592

Backups forced into action: Jackson Carman, Hakeem Adeniji and Max Scharping were forced to start at left tackle, right tackle and right guard, respectively, and their sub-par performance made life difficult on the rest of the Cincinnati Bengals offense.

• Starters struggled too: Even Cincinnati's usual starters had a tough day at the office Sunday night, further making effective offense hard to accomplish.

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Heading into the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, many people wondered if the Cincinnati Bengals offense would be able to hold up enough to get the team through a tough matchup on the road against one of the AFC's top teams. Those concerns were ultimately a week too early, as their pass protection a key factor in their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.

Backups Jackson Carman, Hakeem Adeniji and Max Scharping were forced to start at left tackle, right tackle and right guard, respectively, and Carman was the only one who posted a 35.0-plus PFF pass-blocking grade.

Carman finished the game with a 64.7 PFF grade — the best of any Bengals offensive lineman — and led the team with a 77.0 PFF pass-blocking grade as well. While his performance at guard as a rookie was much maligned, Carman’s performances at left tackle, the position he played at Clemson, were more than acceptable by NFL standards. 

Things got rough for the Bengals elsewhere on the line though. Starting center Ted Karras was the next highest-graded player, posting a 58.1 PFF grade while allowing two quarterback hits. At left guard, rookie Cordell Volson produced a 39.3 PFF pass-blocking grade, allowing a hit and a hurry, while Scharping (right guard) allowed two sacks, a hit and two hurries. Adeniji surrendered the most pressure on the line and was at fault for three sacks, a hit and two hurries.

In the previous meeting between the two teams, the Bengals had been able to hold Chris Jones to just two hurries on 37 pass-rushing snaps, leading to a 70.1 PFF pass-rushing grade — his fifth-lowest of the season. In the rematch Sunday evening, Jones took over. His 90.0 PFF pass-rushing grade was tied for his third-best performance of the season, as he racked up two sacks, three hits and five hurries.

As the Bengals lick their wounds after coming so close to glory for the second year running, they will be left wondering what would have happened if they had their full-strength offensive line at their disposal.


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