Across The Shield: Eli Apple Makes Game-Sealing Pass Breakup for Bengals, Seven Buckeyes Advance to Conference Championship Games

By Dan Hope on January 23, 2023 at 8:35 am
Eli Apple
Sam Greene/The Enquirer/USA TODAY Network

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.

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.

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.

Pro Bucks Of The Week
Week Player Stats
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.

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.

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.”

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.

Quick hits

  • 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.
  • 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.

Buckeyes Around the NFL
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
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
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