CINCINNATI – The crowd, the intensity, the feeling that everything was riding on every play. Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict was overwhelmed by all of it at the start of his first NFL playoff game.
The Bengals lost in Houston 19-13 last season, when Burfict was a rookie and Cincinnati didn’t do a very good job of handling the high-stakes atmosphere.
“There’s a different speed to the game,” Burfict said. “It was kind of shocking to me being in the playoffs my first year. Man, everything was going fast for me. I had to adapt to it.”
The Bengals (11-5) and the San Diego Chargers (9-7) will have a lot of young players in the playoff spotlight today at Paul Brown Stadium.
Rookie running back Giovani Bernard, rookie tight end Tyler Eifert and second-year receiver Marvin Jones have given the Bengals new dimensions on offense.
Burfict, a second-year player, led the team in tackles and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, who missed most of his rookie season in 2012 because of injury, had two intercep- tions in last Sunday’s 34-17 win over the Ravens.
Bengals receiver Marvin Jones will be reunited with Chargers receiver Keenan Allen, who was a close friend at California. Allen led NFL rookies with 1,046 yards receiving, 72 catches and eight TDs.
The Chargers also have a rookie right tackle with D.J. Fluker and youth on defense with end Kendall Reyes and linebackers Melvin Ingram and Manti Te’o. All of them will get to know what it’s like to be in the playoffs.