The Cincinnati Bengals made it look easy on the opening drive of their Divisional Round playoff game against the Buffalo Bills.
Receiving the kickoff at a snowy Highmark Stadium, it took Cincinnati just six plays to march 79 yards for the game’s first touchdown: Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and his favorite target, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, connected for a 28-yard touchdown that might have been among the easiest in both players’ careers.
Chase, after all, was pretty open — [switches to Larry David voice] — pretty, pretty, pretty open.
The Bills leaving one of the NFL’s best wide receivers that wide open is obviously not a great choice. And yet, it happened.
So, who is to blame for the breakdown? That’s impossible to say without knowing the defensive call, but a look at the NFL Next Gen Stats dots shows an apparent miscommunication between linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (49) and safety Jordan Poyer (31):
Both Edmunds and Poyer followed tight end Hayden Hurst (88) on his route to the flat rather than one taking Chase (1) down the middle of the field. Burrow saw the opening, and he found Chase with nobody close to him for an easy six points.
Chase’s impact on the Bills defense did not end on the first drive of the game, however. The very next Bengals touchdown one series later saw three Buffalo defenders focus on him rather than Hayden Hurst.