CINCINNATI – Of the 120 plays that took place Sunday night in the AFC wild card game between the Ravens and Bengals, there is only one everyone will remember. Not just tomorrow, or a year from now, or even a decade from now.
We talk forever.
Sam Hubbard’s sparkling 98-yard touchdown return—the longest such game in NFL postseason history—lives as details, emotions, and video evidence are conveyed like a family heirloom.
Where were you the night of January 15, 2023 for the “Wham, Scram, Thank You, Sam?”
For the 66,399 who have been inside Paycor Stadium — and the hundreds of thousands who will claim to have been — watching Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson hit the ball from Baltimore midfield Tyler Huntley on a third down sneak from the 1-yard line and Hubbard, Cincinnati native and team captain, rumble 98 Yards for go-ahead points in a 24-17 victory will be remembered forever as not only something they saw, but lived.
– Cincinnati Bengals January 16, 2023
So why wait five or 10 years to tease out the oral history of what would end up as one of the most celebrated plays in Bengals history? Let’s get straight to it because memories are still fresh or, in the Ravens’ case, raw.
It was a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line with the game tied 17-17 with 11:54 remaining. Huntley, who started with an injured Lamar Jackson, attempted to jump over the pile of dead bodies and stretch the ball across the goal line as teammates Patrick Rijkaard and Mark Andrews pushed him from behind. But Bengals quarterback Jermaine Pratt stopped Huntley’s lead, and Wilson hit the ball with both hands into the waiting arms of Hubbard.
Pratt: “Once they got into that formation, Logan and I were like, sneak, sneak, sneak.”
Wilson: “I knew it was an offside formation. I knew there was space. I don’t remember exactly what the yard line it was, but it was at least a yard and a half from the goal line, so I knew there would be time before he could get to the ball.” The goal line. I just jumped up, made a play and hit the ball.”
it is cold: “Logan is smarter than me. I was just trying to get some penetration and stop, because that’s what our defense does. We scratch and try to defend every yard as best we can.”
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh: “It’s an offside push play. It wasn’t executed the right way. Tyler went over the top – that’s a Burrow play. He should back off on this… That’s how the play was designed. We felt like that was the best call, but we just didn’t get it right.” “.
Defensive Tackle Zack Carter: “I knock my leg off, I see Huntley come up with the ball and I’m like, ‘No, he scored.’ Then I hear a cheer from the crowd, and I don’t know what’s going on. I look up and see Sam going off.”
Defensive Tackle of Reader DJ: “You just heard our audience, so I knew it was a good thing for us.”
Defensive Tackle BJ Hill: “It was great to hear that roar. I hope we can hear it next Sunday when our fans travel to Buffalo.”
Ted Krass Center: “I thought we were going to be down from 24 to 17. They were on 1. It was unbelievable. It was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen.”
Once Hubbard took the ball out of the air, he took off running towards the north end zone. Three of his 10 teammates who were on the court with him for the ill-fated play accompanied him – fullback Achim Davis-Geither, Marcus Bailey and Salama von Bell. Andrews was the Ravens’ lone starter. Bailey pushed him off course at the 50, and Bailey knocked him to the ground 30 yards shy of the end zone.
it is cold: “I was just playing soccer. It just kind of fell into my hands, and I just went.”
Bailey: “Sam probably had 5 to 10 yards when I started to take off. I stuck with him, until I got to him. I saw Mark Andrews running from behind my right side of my vision. He was doing a good job of weaving. He probably would have made the play if I hadn’t got him.” I thought I pushed him to the side. Throwing hands was just to make sure the stewards knew I had no ill intent to push him in the back.”
Wide Receiver Tyler Boyd: “At first I had a slight feeling he was going to get caught. But there were too many entrappers with him to get caught, and it was a joy to see. That’s something you see in ‘Madden’ or something. For him to get That, he deserves, because he’s Mr. Cincinnati.”
Sam Hubbard drove 123.6 yards on his 98-yard dash return line, the most by a TD ball carrier this season.
– NextGenStats (NextGenStats) January 16, 2023
Head Coach Zack Taylor: (I was) yelling at all these people just to stop someone. It looked like Mark Andrews was going to beat him and we had a whole caravan of people. That’s what I had in mind – ‘Run faster’.
Quarterback Joe Boro: “Run faster, Sam! Go there! He actually looked really fast, surprisingly.”
it is cold: “I was just looking at the Jumbotron. I’ve never been in that situation, but it feels good. I could see why the attacking guys love it. I was like, (Andrews) is coming, somebody stopped him. Please don’t get caught. That’s all I was I’m thinking about it “.
Wilson: “He was gassed.”
hill: “I love seeing my teammates play. I was so happy for him. He ran 98 yards. I probably would have made it to twenty, if that.”
Dehner Jr.: The Bengals weren’t perfect — maybe even lucky — but that doesn’t matter
Defensive end camera sample: “As soon as I saw Logan hit it, I ended up falling over. DJ and I stayed on the opposite goal line, yelling, ‘Go, Sam. Run, Sam, run. It took a minute, but he got there.'”
it is cold: “They saw me take off and none of the D-lin guys were chasing me. They were like, ‘I get it.’ It was funny.”
reader: “Sam had the wheels to finish it. That’s amazing. You see a lot of people running who don’t make it. Immediately converting it into points was important.”
Defensive end Trey Hendrickson: “An incredible play. Game-changing gameplay. The man is all effort, all the time. A man goes 100 miles an hour every day. I’m really proud of him.”
Hubbard’s huge play would never have happened were it not for the hustle of another teammate, and the other two switches playing. Three plays before the fumble return, Huntley drove a long drive and looked like he was going to score, but safety Jesse Bates beat him to the goal line and pulled him from the 2-yard line.
On the first and goal of 2, Form got a piece of Huntley’s lane intended for Rickard open on the flat, forcing him to fall incomplete. On second and goal by 2, Bell and Pratt stood Baltimore running back Gus Edwards on 1, putting up Hubbard’s heroics.
Running back Joe Mixon: “Jesse made a great play. Those are the plays that often go unnoticed. But Jesse had a hustle to go and get it. I’m glad he caught it and it went that way.”
Cornerback Cam Taylor-Brett: “I was running from the road across the field. If Jesse didn’t get it, I was pretty close. But that was a huge Jesse play.”
it is cold: “I don’t know how many times we’ve had that situation where someone’s on the floor, and we either bend down to get a spin or (keep them) on a three-pointer. You don’t want to be that guy who gave up and let him in and gave him something for free. You always want to be That guy giving us another chance and letting someone else play, and that’s just our mentality. Nothing new for us or Jesse. He’s done that many times before.”
Carter: “Just give us a blade of grass for defense. Give us an inch, a yard, whatever. That’s what happened. Jessie gave us an inch or a yard, and we stopped. That’s what we cleaning crew do.”
Once Hubbard scored, everyone had something to say to him. But all he could think about was getting some oxygen and getting back on the field for the next series of defense. Although he couldn’t remember what people said to him, there would be a record of it all.
– Chris Rolling (@Chris_Roling) January 16, 2023
it is cold: “I turned on the microphone, so we’ll see. (My) first game microphone ever.”
Taylor Brett: “I told him, ‘Good job. That’s the way you play, man. We needed a play, and they were the ones who made it, Logan and him.'”
Ja’Marr Chase Wide Receiver: “I said to him, ‘You looked quickly. ‘ Even though I was lying. It was a sweet moment.”
Boyd: “What did you tell him? I said, “Levels. And big on “levels”. This was some good. This is what we need. That won the game for us.”
Taylor: “I couldn’t find him. I think Sam was the last person I found. I just congratulated everyone.”
Sam Hubbard rewrote the NFL record book with one play. The score was 98 yards:
• Longest TD return fumble in NFL Playoff history
• Longest TD in Bengals history
• Longest fourth-quarter TD blip in the history of the game
• 4th TD – Longest defensive TD in game history
– John Breech (@johnbreech) January 16, 2023
Hubbard did not remember what he was told, but he would never forget the experience. The Bengals had to come up with three more defensive stops after that to hang on for the win, including defending a Hail Mary that came off the hands of Ravens receiver James Proche on the last play of the game. But as has been the case all season, the defense got the job done. After Taylor and Burrow took their turns in the press conference room, Hubbard sat on the stage for about 15 minutes, enjoying answering each question and enjoying the moment.
“You can’t repeat a feeling like this in life,” he said. “It’s really special. You can’t even dream about it. It’s so special. But I was just happy to see the faces of my team mates because that sucked. It was a tough game. A lot of adversity is very physical. Making the play and being the guy to come is such a great feeling.” Not just for my teammates, but for the fans as well.”
(Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)