Eli Apple helped the Cincinnati Bengals secure their second straight trip to the AFC Championship Game.
With the Bengals leading 27-10 and less than eight minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, the Buffalo Bills had to go for it on 4th-and-6 to keep the game alive. Apple shut down the Bills’ chances of making a comeback by swatting Josh Allen’s pass away from Gabriel Davis to break up what would have been a 16-yard touchdown pass and force a turnover on downs.
big play Eli Apple pic.twitter.com/fuDuUXeTKA— alex (@highIightheaven) January 22, 2023
Fellow former Ohio State defender Sam Hubbard also contributed to the win-sealing play, as he was credited with a quarterback hit against Allen on Apple’s PBU.
Apple and Vonn Bell both recorded six tackles for the Bengals in their 17-point win. Bell recorded a divisional-round sack for the second year in a row when he took down Allen on the final play of the first quarter.
In typical Eli Apple fashion, the former Ohio State cornerback wasn’t shy about celebrating his big play and the Bengals’ win.
Eli Apple be wilding pic.twitter.com/6K08C4VJqd— Mr.Williams (@Iam_VanWild3r) January 22, 2023
CINCY MOOD. pic.twitter.com/8TKjpk2241— NFL (@NFL) January 22, 2023
Eli Apple leaning against a wall puffing a cigar during every question repeatedly professing his defense the best in the league is some kind to mood. And about sums up the #Bengals locker room.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) January 23, 2023
We are just the greatest. - Apple pic.twitter.com/dW3tYNdF5I
Apple can also celebrate winning our Pro Buck of the Week award for the divisional round in recognition of making the biggest play of the weekend by any player from Ohio State.
|WEEK 1||Saints WR Michael Thomas||5 catches, 57 yards, 2 TD|
|WEEK 2||Jets WR Garrett Wilson||8 catches, 102 yards, 2 TD|
|WEEK 3||Saints WR Chris Olave||9 catches, 147 yards|
|WEEK 4||Bengals S Vonn Bell||4 tackles, 2 INT|
|WEEK 5||Broncos LB Baron Browning||5 tackles, 1.5 sacks (13.5 yards), 2 TFL, 6 QB hits|
|WEEK 6||Broncos LB Baron Browning||3 tackles, 1 sack (7 yards), 2 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 FR|
|WEEK 7||Bears QB Justin Fields||13/21 passing, 179 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 14 carries, 82 yards, 1 TD|
|WEEK 8||Commanders WR Terry McLaurin||6 catches, 113 yards|
|WEEK 9||Bears QB Justin Fields||17/28 passing, 123 yards, 3 TD; 15 carries, 178 yards, 1 TD|
|WEEK 10||Bears QB Justin Fields||12/20 passing, 167 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; 13 carries, 147 yards, 2 TD|
|WEEK 11||Saints WR Chris Olave||5 catches, 102 yards, 1 TD|
|WEEK 12||Jets WR Garrett Wilson||5 catches, 95 yards, 2 TD|
|WEEK 13||49ers DE Nick Bosa||3 sacks (20 yards), 1 FF, 4 QB hits|
|WEEK 14||Ravens RB J.K. Dobbins||15 carries, 120 yards, 1 TD|
|WEEK 15||Browns CB Denzel Ward||3 tackles, 1 INT, 1 PBU|
|WEEK 16||49ers DE Nick Bosa||7 tackles, 2 sacks (19 yards), 1 FF, 4 QB hits|
|WEEK 17||Saints CB Marshon Lattimore||6 tackles, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 TD|
|WEEK 18||Steelers DE Cameron Heyward||8 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 QB hits, 1 PD|
|WILD CARD||Bengals DE Sam Hubbard||98-yard fumble return touchdown, 4 tackles, 1 QB hit|
|DIVISIONAL||Bengals CB Eli Apple||6 tackles, 1 PD|
A total of five Buckeyes – six if you include Joe Burrow, who threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 31 yards to lead the Bengals to victory – were active for the Bengals’ win over the Bills. Drue Chrisman punted twice for 73 combined yards, including a 45-yard punt downed at the 10-yard line. Isaiah Prince was elevated from the practice squad for Sunday’s game to provide additional depth on the offensive line with multiple starters out for Cincinnati, but he did not end up playing any snaps.
Zeke’s season ends with a snap
With the season on the line, the Dallas Cowboys put the ball in Ezekiel Elliott’s hands for the final play of their divisional round game Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. But not in the way anyone would have expected.
Needing 76 yards for a touchdown, the Cowboys opted to put Elliott at center to snap the ball back to Dak Prescott with every other Cowboy player lined up wide. With no one to help Elliott block the 49ers’ pass-rush, Prescott was forced to quickly throw the ball to KaVontae Turpin and Jimmie Ward made a sound tackle to end the Cowboys’ season.
The Cowboys’ play call was widely mocked on social media, though Ohio State general manager Mark Pantoni took to Twitter to point out Elliott delivered an accurate snap despite never having done so in a game (at least not in the NFL or at Ohio State) before Sunday.
Alright Zeke, so first youre going to line up at center, then snap it to Dak and then get absolutely leveled. pic.twitter.com/1cvyXGql5U— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 23, 2023
Nobody talking about how good Zekes snap was— Mark Pantoni (@markpantoni) January 23, 2023
Elliott was the Cowboys’ leading rusher against the 49ers after Tony Pollard suffered a fractured fibula in the second quarter that knocked him out of the game. He had one of the Cowboys’ most impressive offensive plays of the day when he turned a broken play into a 3rd-and-1 conversion with a second-effort lunge across the line-to-gain.
That said, Elliott never gained more than five yards on any of his 10 carries and finished the day with just 26 rushing yards along with nine receiving yards on two catches.
While the Cowboys’ loss ended the season for Elliott, Noah Brown (who had two catches for 21 yards in the loss), Malik Hooker (eight tackles) and Johnathan Hankins (three tackles), it was a celebratory day for Nick Bosa, who advances to the NFC Championship Game for the third time in his four-year NFL career.
In a quiet outing for his standards, Bosa finished Sunday’s game with two tackles, highlighted by a tackle for loss against Elliott, and one quarterback hit.
Bosa was all smiles after the game, though, as the 49ers earned a berth in next weekend’s NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles. He was all smiles before the game, too, when he was surprised by his older brother Joey Bosa, who made the trip to San Francisco to watch Nick play after his own season ended in the wild card round.
Nick Bosa didnt know Joey Bosa would be here. Huge bro hug pic.twitter.com/9w36wUDV5z— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) January 22, 2023
Seven Buckeyes advance to conference championship games
Of the 15 players from Ohio State who were on active rosters for divisional round games, more than half of them saw their seasons come to an end. DaVon Hamilton, Luke Farrell and the Jacksonville Jaguars and Nick Vannett, Wyatt Davis and the New York Giants all had their seasons end Saturday as the Jaguars lost to the Kansas City Chiefs and the Giants lost to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Bengals are now the only team left in the playoffs with multiple Buckeyes on their roster, and their Buckeyes will be the only Buckeyes on the field in the AFC Championship Game. The NFC Championship Game will feature one Buckeye on each side: Bosa for the visiting 49ers and Trey Sermon, who was inactive for the Eagles’ win over the Giants, for the home team.
The schedule for next week’s conference championship games with the list of players from Ohio State who were on their rosters for their divisional-round wins:
- 3 p.m., FOX: No. 2 San Francisco 49ers (Nick Bosa) vs. No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles (Trey Sermon)
- 6:30 p.m., CBS: No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals (Eli Apple, Vonn Bell, Drue Chrisman, Sam Hubbard, Isaiah Prince) vs. No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs (None)
Joey Bosa gets hefty fine
While the elder Bosa was able to watch his younger brother play Sunday, he did so with a lighter wallet.
Joey Bosa thought he “might get a $40,000 fine” after criticizing the officiating in the Los Angeles Chargers’ wild card round loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. As it turns out, the former Ohio State defensive end underestimated his bill.
After Bosa incurred two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and an offsides flag in the Chargers’ loss and proceeded to rant about those calls in an interview one day later, Bosa was fined $55,546 by the NFL on Saturday.
During an interview with Chargers reporters two Sundays ago, Bosa suggested the officials were on a “power trip” and said “I’m sick of those fucking people.”
"I need to be more accountable for my actions, obviously, but..."@jbbigbear unloads as he & the @chargers head into the offseason following last night's loss to the Jaguars@diehardboltclub #Chargers @BB_Chargers @BFTB_Chargers pic.twitter.com/fvhA2IvSCX— Sports Central LA (@SportsCentralLA) January 15, 2023
Other players fined by the NFL on Saturday included Tom Brady, and his fine also came with an Ohio State connection. The former Michigan quarterback was docked $16,444 by the league for attempting to slide-tackle former Buckeye safety Malik Hooker during a fumble return (which ultimately did not count when the fumble was ruled to be an incompletion) in the Cowboys’ win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
- Hamilton was productive in his final game of the season, recording five total tackles with a tackle for loss, a pass deflection and a quarterback hit in the Jaguars’ loss to the Chiefs.
- Former Ohio State long snapper Jake McQuaide made the trip to San Francisco with the Cowboys despite being on injured reserve and ended up in the middle of a pregame altercation when 49ers players took issue with Cowboys kicker Brett Maher going through his pregame kicking routine on the 49ers’ side of the field.
A little drama in Cowboys-49ers pregame: Niners apparently took offense to Cowboys kicker Brett Maher warming up on side of field, stepping in middle of his operation to interrupt drill. Niners eventually allowed Maher to resume kicking. He made next try. pic.twitter.com/zOuYIDp3El— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) January 22, 2023
- With their seasons over, Chase Young and Jerome Baker spent their Saturday night watching the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Milwaukee Bucks.
Full stats for every Buckeye who was on the field during the second round of the NFL playoffs can be found in the table below compiled by Eleven Warriors’ Matt Gutridge.
|PLAYER||POSITION||TEAM||DIVISIONAL ROUND STATS||FULL PLAYOFF STATS|
|ELI APPLE||CB||BENGALS||6 tackles, 1 PD||12 tackles, 1 PD|
|VONN BELL||S||BENGALS||6 tackles, 1 sack (3 yards)||10 tackles, 1 sack (3 yards)|
|NICK BOSA||DE||49ERS||2 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit||7 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 FR, 1 QB hit|
|NOAH BROWN||WR||COWBOYS||2 catches, 21 yards||3 catches, 39 yards; 1 tackle|
|DRUE CHRISMAN||P||BENGALS||2 punts, 36.5 average, 1 inside 20||5 punts, 44.8 average, 3 inside 20|
|WYATT DAVIS||OG||GIANTS||Inactive||Did not play|
|EZEKIEL ELLIOTT||RB||COWBOYS||10 carries, 26 yards; 2 catches, 7 yards||23 carries, 53 yards; 3 catches, 16 yards|
|LUKE FARRELL||TE||JAGUARS||Played at TE||Played at TE|
|DAVON HAMILTON||DT||JAGUARS||5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit, 1 PD||8 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit, 2 PD|
|JOHNATHAN HANKINS||DT||COWBOYS||3 tackles||5 tackles, 1 sack (9 yards)|
|MALIK HOOKER||S||COWBOYS||8 tackles||14 tackles|
|SAM HUBBARD||DE||BENGALS||1 tackle, 1 QB hit||5 tackles, 2 QB hits, 1 FR (98 yards), 1 TD|
|ISAIAH PRINCE||OT||BENGALS||Did not play||Did not play|
|TREY SERMON||RB||EAGLES||Inactive||Has not played|
|NICK VANNETT||TE||GIANTS||Played at TE||Played at TE|