One of the many legacies left by former Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is he wanted his players to know who came before them.
The Pro Bowl list in the team's main auditorium at Paul Brown Stadium is where tight end C.J. Uzomah saw Rodney Holman's name and that's why he wore his No. 82 jersey at his postgame news conference that was just as wild as Saturday night's 26-19 Wild Card victory over the Raiders.
"I've seen Rodney Holman's name since I've been here, for seven years. I did some research and I know he was the last tight end to win a playoff game, went to a Super Bowl with the Bengals," Uzomah said. "I thought it would be a nice tribute of things to come and kind of pay homage and say this is how it's going to be. We're going to run the table and win the whole thing."
Uzomah's research began with Holman, along with Bob Trumpy regarded as the Bengals' best all-round tight ends catching and blocking, making it to three straight Pro Bowls from 1988-1990. That spanned the 1988 Super Bowl trip and '90's last playoff win. He may have also gleaned that Holman caught Boomer Esiason's longest pass of that 41-14 win over the Oilers, a 46-yarder during his two-catch, 51-yard day that also involved six rushers going for 187 yards.
Uzomah played like a Pro Bowler Saturday night in the biggest game of his career. He was a perfect underneath weapon for quarterback Joe Burrow's patience against the Raiders' stubborn shells in the secondary.
Uzomah's six catches for 64 yards marked his best day since his 91-yarder in the Oct. 24 win in Baltimore. His seven-yard touchdown catch on third down, smoked through three defenders, was the 10th play of an opening drive quarterback Joe Burrow said set the tone for a night they would score points the first five times they had the ball.
He also helped hold the Raiders' feared pass rush, No, 1 in the league generating pressure, to two sacks and five hits.
"I feel like I put it in a good spot. I threw it right out of the break," Burrow said of the dart he threw for the touchdown, "and C.J. did a good job reading the coverage, and understanding that he doesn't need to go anywhere, just turn around and he's going to get the ball."
Uzomah said he had no choice.
"Right when I broke the huddle and saw the coverage I knew it was coming to me. I knew he was going to throw it. I just had to hang on. Right when I turned I saw his eyes and said, yep, touchdown. Let's go," Uzomah said. "Joe threw me a dot. That was an incredible throw."
Maybe even more incredible is Uzomah's touchdown celebration. It was even better than burying a time capsule under the two-yard-line, site of linebacker Germaine Pratt's interception with 12 seconds left.
Uzomah wanted to pay homage to both Saturday night's Ruler of the Jungle, Ickey Woods and his Shuffle, as well as rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase's New Orleans' "The Griddy," that has become the rage with Chase's 13 touchdowns.
So he started with "The Shuffle," and merged it with "The Griddy" It also looked like he threw in a chug at the end to honor his old fellow tight end Tyler Eifert, the last Bengal to score 13 touchdowns.
'Yo, if I score, I'm going to do the Ickey Shuffle into the Griddy.' He said, 'Not if, when,' "Uzomah said of his talk with a friend. "I was like, 'All right, bet.' I probably should've practiced for sure because that was not well done. But hey, got in the end zone. Screw it."
CHASE AGAIN: This is why Chase should be everyone's NFL Rookie of the Year.
The Raiders came out in that first drive and tried to cover him one-on-one and it just doesn't work with Burrow because they're one in the same. Chase abused cornerback Brandon Facyson for three catches for 37 yards and Chase was off to the fifth 100-yard game in Bengals postseason history with nine catches for 116 yards. Only Marvin Jones with 130 in 2013 and Cris Collinsworth with 120 in 1982 had more and Chase had more than Collinsworth (107) and tight end Danny Ross (104) in Super Bowl XVI.
Chase said the coverage was no different than what happened in Las Vegas Nov. 21, when he had just three catches for 32 yards with a long of 17.
"We didn't take advantage of it the first time," Chase said. "I have that mentality that I'm unstoppable. I don't think I can be stopped."
Burrow and Chase didn't hit the knockout long punch. The long was 28. But they bloodied the Raiders with lethal jabs. The one that that got the TKO and wobbled Vegas came on the Bengals' utterly necessary scoring drive after the Raiders had cut the lead to 23-16 with 14:17 left in the game.
Six plays and less than three minutes later the Bengals were staring at third-and-seven from their own 39 and Burrow and Chase might as well have been back on the Bayou. Chase ran a go route down the right side but adjusted because he knew Burrow would be going back shoulder and cornerback Desmond Trufant would be screeching past him.
Nineteen yards. The precious points to put them up two scores came five minutes later on Evan McPherson's 28-yard field goal with 6:46 left. The 7:31 drive did in the Raiders as much as the points.
Burrow: "Ja'Marr did a great job at the line creating some separation, and I had somewhere to put it on the back shoulder, and we've hit those all year, so that was a big play in the game."
Chase: "I had a go route. Joe threw it back shoulder to slow me down and I adjusted."
Asked how many times they had done that, Chase said, "Probably 1,000 plus. We did it in college all the time."
The decision to take Chase with the fifth pick in the last draft keeps paying dividends in this season's big moments showcasing the pair's almost supernatural connection.
"College is where you have one of the most fun times, where you get to meet people for a lifetime," Chase said. "I met Joe at college and I'll be (friends with him) for a lifetime. He's helping me grow, I'm helping him grow. We're getting each other better, getting the organization better, team better and getting better on our own."
BATES AT HIS BEST: Bengals free safety Jessie Bates III, one of the linchpins of this team since he was drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft, saved the best performance of his fourth season for his first playoff game. He had six tackles and for the second time in his career had three passes defensed. One was bigger than the next.
Two snaps before Pratt's interception, Bates nearly had one when he knocked it away from wide receiver Zay Jones in the end zone.
Bates ended the first series of the second half in a Raiders punt when he didn't give up on a third-and-four Raiders quarterback Derek Carr hit wide receiver Hunter Renfrow over the middle to the sidelines. As Renfrow was about to put it away for a 22-yard gain, Bates reached in at the last second and knocked it away as Renfrow was going out of bounds.
"He stood out a lot to me. He made the big play on Renfrow," said head coach Zac Taylor, "on the third down where it got overturned, and I think he had a play in the fourth quarter on a tight end. You're right, I'll certainly know better when I see the tape, but I definitely felt Jessie's presence."
SAM'S NIGHT: If this game belonged to anybody, it was Cincinnati native Sam Hubbard, Bates' 2018 draft classmate. The Bengals left end typified the city's resolve when it comes to their team on a night three of his brothers on the defensive line went down.
It started with tackle Mike Daniels, already playing for the injured Josh Tupou, leaving with a groin injury in the first series. Then in rapid succession early in the second half they lost leading sacker Trey Hendrickson to concussion protocol and three technique Larry Ogunjobi to an ankle injury that got him carted off.
Hubbard ended up playing 92 percent of the snaps, 71 of them, and can't remember coming out in the second half.
"To me personally, it means the world. Never in my lifetime have we had a playoff win," Hubbard said. "I feel like we broke a curse. Really, just looking up in the stands, seeing the city come alive, it's hard to put into words what it means to everybody in the city, and I'm just really happy to be part of the team that was able to do it. We got a lot more in store."
Hubbard was so exhausted he didn't even know it was third down from the Bengals 10 with 3:42 left in the game and Carr needing three yards for a first down and the Raiders trailing, 26-16.
But Hubbard had enough of a rush that Carr's pass to tight end Darren Waller hit his helmet and forced a field goal.
"We had a lot of guys go down on the defensive line. Guys stepped up and just had to grind it out," Hubbard said. "We were trying to keep (Carr) in the pocket, doubling guys on the back end. Just grinding it out, keeping them out of the end zone, doing whatever we could. Everybody's fighting, clawing together. I think the love we have with each other as teammates is what allowed us to bow up at the end and in the red zone so many times."
When Carr wheeled them right back down the field, tackle B.J. Hill slowed the momentum with a sack. Both Hill (81 percent of the snaps) and nose tackle D.J. Reader (66) were immense as the only tackles for much of the second half. And rookie edge Cam Sample slid into tackle at times, which he rarely did this year. His 34 snaps (44 percent) were the third most he took this season.
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Chase was surprised his 15-yard run on a jet sweep came on fourth-and-one. It was a well-designed play that began with Burrow under center and when the Raiders tightened up they sent Chase wide right, one of the three times he carried for 23 yards.
"I haven't played running back for a long time, but they're giving me those tosses and getting my speed to the outside. Being hit by linebackers, I know how hits feel again. But it's cool. Go out there and make a play with the ball in my hands," Chase said. " I'm built like a running back. They only do it for the receivers who are built like running backs. So I see myself doing it more." ...
Chalk up two more Bengals records for rookie kicker Evan McPherson, who already has the career record with nine field goals of at least 50. His four field goals broke the Bengals postseason record held by Horst Muhlmann in 1973 and Jim Breech's iconic three in Super Bowl XXIII. His 14 points broke the record of 12 held by four position players: Woods in the 1988 AFC championship game, running back Stanley Wilson in the 1988 AFC Divisional, Danny Ross in Super Bowl XVI and running back Charles Alexander in the 1981 AFC Divisional ...