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Pregame Notebook: Bengals Call On Dax In Divisional; Hamlin In The House

S Jessie Bates III (left) shakes DT DJ Reader's hand before kickoff of the Bengals-Bills divisional game at Highmark Stadium on Sunday, January 22 2023.
S Jessie Bates III (left) shakes DT DJ Reader's hand before kickoff of the Bengals-Bills divisional game at Highmark Stadium on Sunday, January 22 2023.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. _ This is why they took Dax Hill in the first round.

With Tre Flowers (hamstring) out of Sunday's AFC Divisional, a game attended by Bills safety Damar Hamlin, the rookie safety gets a playoff baptism with that versatility that lured the Bengals with the 31st pick back in April. After replacing slot cornerback Mike Hilton in Tampa Bay on Dec. 18 with 66 snaps, he's played 15 since. Flowers is usually defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo's tight end guy and the Bills' Dawson Knox has streak of touchdowns in five straight games. Hill held up in last week's scramble at the end of the Wild Card win.

"(Hill) was the next guy up in that role," Anarumo said. "I thought he did a fine job for what we were asking. You know he had help on the end there, we wanted to make sure he wasn't going to catch the ball. I was happy with what he did."

Backup slot cornerback Jalen Davis is active for the first time since getting hurt Dec. 11 against Cleveland. Also up for the Bengals and just for the second time this is backup tackle D'Ante Smith. That comes in the wake of Saturday's elevation off the practice squad of the other backup tackle, Isaiah Prince. All of it the fallout of starting left tackle Jonah Williams (knee) on the inactive list. Prince started all four postseason games last year at right tackle.

On his 23rd birthday, it is Carman's first NFL start at left tackle, the position he played at Clemson and got him drafted in the 2021 second round. Last week was his first appearance at tackle in the league.

"I thought he did a nice job. Especially being thrust into there," said Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. "He's got to practice both sides during the week. He's practiced a lot of guard this year as well. So I thought given the opportunity he had against a tough defensive line, I thought he handled it really well."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: The flurries began an hour before Sunday's kickoff, about the Cincinnati was consuming about five to six inches. So if this game had been at Payor Stadium, it would have been played in Buffalo weather. As it is, the temperature at Highmark was about 33 degrees with little wind. The snow started swirling just before kickoff …

The Bengals were downplaying the obvious. At the very least, many thought, there should have been a coin flip to decide the location of this one with the Jan. 2 game against the clubs cancelled. With the league already selling tickets for a neutral site AFC title game next week between the Bills and Chiefs, Bengals center Ted Karras said simply, "Let's spoil it." Zac Taylor waved it off on Friday, saying maybe it was in my mind a little a few weeks ago, but not now." …

Bengals president Mike Brown, who has been watching pro football for nearly 80 years, confirmed what the record books say about Bengals left end Sam Hubbard's 98-yard fumble return last week.

"Never seen anything like. Not in a playoff game," said Brown, who when prompted said he did remember something slightly familiar in reverse.

In order for the Cleveland Browns to reach their first NFL title game and win it in 1950, the week before they needed Hall of Fame nose tackle Bill Willis to chase down Giants running back Choo Choo Roberts from behind to make a touchdown-saving tackle at the Browns 4. Cleveland held for a field goal and that's how they won it. Willis, like Hubbard, an Ohio State D-lineman, caught up with one of the fastest players in the league. Like last Sunday, Brown, then 15 was there.

And like Hubbard's play, he'll remember it.

"And our fans will remember it," Brown said.

For at least 72 years.

Also inactive were right guard Alex Cappa, defensive linemen Jay Tufele and Jeff Gunter, running back Chris Evans and tight end Nick Bowers….