Patrick Mahomes might be the best quarterback on the planet, but Joe Burrow and the Bengals have been his kryptonite. Burrow and the Bengals have won all three head-to-head meetings between the AFC’s best quarterbacks, and No. 4 is just days away.
The Bengals beat the Chiefs on January 2, 2022, to clinch the AFC North title last season, 34-31. Then again, weeks later, in the AFC Championship at Arrowhead Stadium, 27-24 in overtime. This season, Cincinnati beat the Chiefs in Week 13, and now they’ll again meet at Arrowhead with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
I figured that a rewatch of that Week 13 meeting would be in order this morning as an exercise as we begin to preview the conference championship weekend this week.
Let’s talk about the Bengals pass rush …
The Bengals’ pass rush in Week 13 played a huge role in the Cincinnati victory. You’ll see all week that Cincinnati’s pass rush ranked in the bottom third of the league this season. However, the Bengals’ pass rush was highly effective in this game and held Patrick Mahomes to 223 yards and one touchdown.
Cincinnati had a ton of success playing a drop eight and seven in coverage on Mahomes, relying on their pass rush to win most of the game one-on-one. On this Sam Hubbard sack in the second quarter, Cincinnati rushed four and dropped seven in coverage.
Hubbard straight-up beats Andrew Wylie and gets the sack. You can see in the freeze frame below that the Bengals have everything sealed up with seven in coverage.
That drive ended in a Kansas City punt, the first of the game for either team.
During a Chiefs drive in the third quarter, we have Patrick Mahomes getting rid of the ball before the Bengals’ four-man rush gets home but Cincinnati has the top blanketed.
Incompletion, great coverage by the Bengals. Four defenders are blanketing the top; two stay with MVS, and no dice for Kansas City.
But here’s where Kansas City will burn you, though. On the next play, Marquez Valdes-Scantling runs the same route; that time, the secondary doesn’t have the extra help as Cincinnati rushed six, and Mahomes hooked up with MVS for 46 yards to convert a 3rd & 7.
Here’s an example of the drop eight that we saw work so well against the Bills on Sunday:
Cincinnati rushes three here, and Joseph Ossai gets Mahomes with an excellent second effort. In the freeze frame below, you’ll see that Cincinnati drops eight, but it’s seven in coverage, with Sam Hubbard acting as a spy.
This was just an excellent game plan, and as we saw against Buffalo on Sunday, Lou Anarumo has more than a few of them.
Travis Kelce is the motor to the Chiefs’ offense these days. He’s Mahomes’ favorite receiver. His security blanket with Tyreek Hill now in Miami.
Kelce was a non-factor in this game, so the Chiefs were held to 349 yards in the loss. Kelce only caught four passes for 56 yards. His first catch didn’t come until the third quarter. And it was a dump down at the line that accounted for 20 of his 56 receiving yards.
Outside of the dump down, Kelce had three catches for 36 yards and no touchdowns.
Last week when Jacksonville failed to win with a four-man rush and brought extra help, Kelce ran free all day. That led to a record-setting 14-catch day for Kelce, which included two touchdowns.
Here’s a perfect example of the coverage benefits of the game plan and how it slowed the Chiefs down. Cincinnati rushes three and drops eight. You’ve got a corner and safety sealing off each side of the field, a DB in the middle, two more ready to dart at the shallow options, and you’ve got a linebacker taking Mahomes inside running lane away.
Pounding it with Perine
With Joe Mixon out with a concussion, Samaje Perine had a strong day for the Bengals. Perine carried the ball 21 times for 106 yards. He also caught six passes for 49 yards on the afternoon.
Perine was the conduit for the Bengals passing game against the Chiefs. More often than not, a chunk play through the air was preceded by Perine runs straight up the middle. Perine’s hard-nosed running up the middle forced Kansas City to stack the box. That opened up the middle of the field for the intermediate passing attack.
Almost all the Bengals chunk plays through the air came from passes over the middle or on an over route in which Burrow hit the open receiver coming past the hash marks to the sideline.