Chiefs 23, Bengals 20: It’s a Rivalry Now
This is what we wanted. Burrow vs. Mahomes. Bengals vs. Chiefs II. The season’s most anticipated game lived up to every bit of the hype.
The rematch of last year’s AFC Championship was as good as we could have ever hoped for. Even on a hobbled ankle that caused him to limp around the field all night, Patrick Mahomes came through for his team. On the game’s final drive, Mahomes’ scamper to get the Chiefs into field goal range was the decider.
Burrow had the ball with just over two minutes left. By then, we had already seen another classic AFC title game between the two teams. After Burrow completed a third-and-long pass, it was looking good for Cincinnati.
And then Chris Jones made the biggest sack of his life.
“Burrowhead my a**!”
Those were the words screamed in Patrick Mahomes’ post-game interview. The Chiefs heard the talk. They responded.
Mahomes showed the poise of an all-time great, dashing for a first down that would lead his team to the Super Bowl in their fifth straight AFC Championship game. But we expected Mahomes to do that. He just needed the opportunity. It was Chris Jones that made the game-changing play tonight.
The Kansas City Chiefs won Burrow vs. Mahomes Part II and are going to the Super Bowl. When he was asked about the Bengals vs. Chiefs rivalry this week, Chris Jones said that a rivalry was only such if both teams won. With the Bengals 3-0 against the Chiefs in the last two seasons, Jones felt there was no rivalry.
Well, Jones, Mahomes, and the Chiefs made it a rivalry with a win tonight. If there’s one thing we can take away from this game, we have a new favorite rivalry in the NFL for years to come.
Burrow Under Siege
With Cincinnati’s offensive line decimated, Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnola threw everything and the kitchen sink at the Bengals to open the game.
Joe Burrow was under fire nearly the entire first quarter, taking sack after sack.
When he wasn’t being sacked, there was no time to throw the ball. Cincinnati’s offense looked out of sorts and ineffective against a hungry Kansas City defensive line.
I wondered whether or not the Chiefs would risk being exposed over the top by sending a ton of pressure this week. Spagnola did, and he didn’t have to worry about being vulnerable deep because his pass rush was so effective that there was no time for anything to develop beyond the intermediate.
Surviving the First Quarter
With Kansas City throwing everything at the Bengals in the first quarter, the Bengals surviving the first quarter felt like a huge victory for Cincinnati’s defense.
After a Harrison Butker field goal early in the second quarter, it was 6-0 Chiefs despite Kansas City holding the Bengals to zero total yards of offense and zero points in the opening quarter.
Lou Anarumo and his Bengals defense was the saving grace for the Bengals in a game that could have gotten very one-sided, very early.
Bengals Defense Stands Tall
When Joe Burrow threw an interception deep in his territory, the Chiefs had a golden opportunity. Kansas City could have gone up 20-3 near the end of the first half. Instead, they went three-and-out, and then Joe Burrow and the Bengals responded.
The Bengals put together a 90-yard drive that resulted in a field goal to make it 13-6 Chiefs at the half. Cincinnati would have (and almost had) liked to get a touchdown, but that drive was necessary. It was the first sign of adjustments in the pass protection.
The Bengals started to leave two backs in the backfield to protect Burrow, and Burrow began to look for Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase.
That sequence went from a potential back-breaking drive for the Chiefs to the Bengals creeping back into the game.
Burrow vs. Mahomes Part II Goes to Mahomes
With the ball and just over two minutes left, Joe Burrow and the Bengals had the chance to drive down the field and win the game.
It looked good after a huge third-and-long conversion. But on the next third down, Chiefs’ defensive lineman Chris Jones made the biggest sack of his life to force a Cincinnati punt.
On the ensuing drive, Patrick Mahomes did what we’re so accustomed to, driving the Chiefs into field goal range.