There are no words that can describe how to feel after watching the AFC Championship Game between the (3) Cincinnati Bengals and (1) Kansas City Chiefs. The best way to describe it is, “Wow! What a game!” Kansas City escaped with a 23-20 victory over Cincinnati.
In the post-game interview, Patrick Mahomes stated, “We showed this place that it’s Arrowhead, it’s not Burrowhead out here.” Travis Kelce also shared a statement that was not quite as kid-friendly.
Simply put, if your heart was not racing throughout the finish, you are not human. Okay, let’s take a deep breath and try to give you the Bengals vs Chiefs recap you all deserve. This may have been the game of the year, but the Chiefs punched their ticket to the most coveted game on the NFL schedule, the Super Bowl.
Cover Me Up
Before we get into the recap, let’s talk a little about how this game impacted gamblers like yourself. The NFL odds were up and down all week preparing for the Cincinnati Bengals vs Kansas City Chiefs game.
Odds initially favored Kansas City -2 before the lines moved to -2 in favor of Cincinnati. Just days before kickoff, sharp money put the Chiefs back on top as the favorites at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
With the 23-20 victory, Kansas City covered the -2 spread. Kansas City dominated the moneyline all year long and struggled against the spread.
The Bengals were covering machines all season, but history changed Sunday night in Kansas City. It is a shame that either team had to lose this game, but the NFL picks had the line right on the money this time around.
Bengals vs. Chiefs Background
Heading into the NFC Championship between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs, it was all about the storylines. Joe Burrow was the only quarterback to defeat Patrick Mahomes in three-straight NFL matchups. The former college football champion was 3-0 against the MVP finalist in his NFL career heading into Sunday Night.
Mahomes suffered a high ankle sprain in last week’s victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. That type of injury takes around 3-4 weeks for a quarterback to recover from, but he played through it anyways. On top of that, Travis Kelce was questionable prior to kickoff with a back injury.
On the other side of the field, the Bengals were going to start three backup offensive linemen for the second week in a row. It is never fun when the NFL injury report plays such a big role heading into playoff games, but that is just the name of the game.
First Half Recap
When Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes are on your screen, you expect to see a lot of points and a lot of fireworks. That was not the case early on. The Cincinnati Bengals stats did not look very good as they tried to become acclimated to a rowdy Arrowhead environment. Cincinnati had 0 total yards in the 1st quarter.
You do not have to be a wizard at math to know that is not great. The good thing, however, is that the defense of both sides stepped up all night.
The Kansas City Chiefs predictions expected a shootout, but instead, their defense showed up forcing two punts in the 1st quarter. All of Kansas City was on their feet, screaming and causing problems for the offense early on for Burrow and company. Ultimately, that led to momentum for the Chiefs getting two good drives in the 1st, but they could only capitalize on six points off of two Harrison Butker field goals.
Early on, it was apparent Mahomes was not at his best. We quickly learned that an immobile Mahomes is still a phenomenal quarterback. He was not doing his typical magic running around the field, but he was still able to get out of the pocket and make plays. Finally, the 2nd quarter is where the action starts to pick up.
Bengals Cut Lead, but Chiefs Respond Quickly
On the first play of the 2nd quarter, the Bengals made their way into the scoring column, cutting the lead in half courtesy of an Evan McPherson field goal. Immediately after, however, the Chiefs punched back.
After driving down the field, the Chiefs had the ball deep into Cincinnati territory with a 6-3 lead. It was 3rd & 1 prior to Mahomes being sacked at the line of scrimmage by Cameron Sample. Head Coach Andy Reid showed his cards early, and the team went for it on 4th & 1. Mahomes connected with Travis Kelce–who is seemingly always open–for a 14-yard touchdown.
The score was now 13-3 in favor of Kansas City. This was just one of many pivotal 4th down plays in the NFL today. Philadelphia and DeVonta Smith would agree with us on that one.
Three plays later, the unthinkable happened for Bengals fans. Burrow tossed a ball deep to his big man Tee Higgins and the rookie defensive back Jaylen Watson came up with the interception. Watson also collected a pick in the AFC Divisional Round.
Kansas City was unable to score off of the takeaway. To wrap up the half, the Bengals marched 90 yards down the field in 12 plays. Kansas City had a monstrous defensive stand near their goal line, and Cincinnati settled for a 23-yard chip-in shot from McPherson. Heading into halftime, it was a one-possession game, with the Chiefs leading 13-6.
Let the Fun Begin
By most standards, this was not the game we expected between the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs. Looking at the NFL team stats and NFL player stats prior to kickoff, defensive was expected to be an after, though. Instead, the defense was at the forefront of the Bengals vs Chiefs recap.
Kansas City controlled much of the 1st half, yet it was still just a 7-point game. The Chiefs received the kickoff to begin the most important half of their season and went three-and-out. They had an opportunity to potentially pull away, but they booted it away to a Bengals team that has historically excelled in the 2nd half against Kansas City.
The following drive for Cincinnati was all Joe Burrow. The 26-year-old had a huge 11-yard designed run up the middle, faking out the defense. Burrow took another shot at Tee Higgins with a jump ball to the goal line. This time, Higgins had the upper hand, and Who Dey Nation tied the game up at 13 a piece early in the 3rd quarter.
Mahomes’ Turnaround in Tied Game
After the game was tied for the first time since it was 0-0, Mahomes decided to turn things up. The drive started with Kadarius Toney making a big play for a first down. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury that deterred him from playing for the remainder of the game.
Marquez Valdez-Scantling stepped up in his absence connecting with his MVP quarterback for a 25-yard catch. For his third catch of the drive Valdez-Scantling caught a 19-yard dime from Mahomes, regaining the lead at 20-13 with just over four minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
Cincinnati punted on their next drive and everything was clicking for the home team. That was short-lived, as Mahomes played hot potato, and the ball slipped out of his hands on an uncontested throw resulting in a fumble going the other way.
With the ball in Kansas City territory off of the turnover, the Bengals struggled to get anything going. They had the ball on 4th & 6 at the 41-yard-line, and everyone, or at least Tony Romo, for that matter, thought they were going to fake it to try to draw the Chiefs offsides. Instead, Burrow connected with his WR1 Ja’Marr Chase for a massive 35-yard conversion.
Eventually, Samaje Perine ran for a score, and with 13:30 left in the game, the score was tied at 20-20. This was where the intensity picked up, making this perhaps the game of the year.
The final five drives of the game resulted in three punts, an interception, and a field goal. The Chiefs punted the ball in two straight possessions, even after Burrow threw yet another interception. This was the second interception that the Chiefs failed to score on.
In our Bengals vs Chiefs recap, let’s fast forward to the Two-Minute Warning. Burrow had the ball deep in his own territory as he tried to be the hero. His team had two timeouts and could either win the game on their own or send the game to overtime. In the eyes of head coach Zac Taylor, those were the only two options.
To the dismay of Cincinnati, neither of those options happened. On 3rd & 8 on their own 35, Burrow was sacked yet again, making it an unmanageable 4th & 15 with 41 seconds left in the ball game. Kansas City had one timeout remaining.
Chiefs Avoid Overtime with Moore’s Heroics
With an injured Mahomes and a great Cincinnati defense, it seemed like this game was on its way to overtime. Free football is amazing, but the Chiefs had other plans. Skyy Moore had a huge return of the punt for 29 yards which gave the Chiefs a realistic shot. The rookie was pushed out of bounds at the Kansas City 47-yard-line with exactly 1/2 of a minute remaining.
Isaiah Pacheco received a pass for 6 yards to start out the drive but was unable to get out of bounds. The Chiefs were forced to use their final timeout with 21 seconds left. On 2nd down, Mahomes threw an incomplete pass, and with 17 seconds left, making it 3rd & 4 on the Cincinnati 47. Okay, close your eyes now, Bengals fans.
Mahomes was hurting all night, yet he decided to scramble on 3rd & 4. He picked up the 1st down and had stepped two feet out of bounds to stop the clock with 8 seconds remaining. This was the play of the game, and ultimately decided the winner of this intense battle.
Joseph Ossai, the 22-year-old defensive end for the Bengals, shoved Mahomes down after he was clearly out of bounds resulting in a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. With 8 seconds left, the ball went from the 42-yard line to the 27.
The Chiefs would have had the ball at the 42 with no timeouts remaining and 8 seconds left on the clock. They likely would have time for one quick play to the sidelines, but overtime was likely the inevitable outcome.
The field goal would have been a 59-yarder from Butker, which would have been well short in all likelihood. Butker ended up nailing the 45-yard field goal to give his team the 23-20 victory.
This was one heck of a game, and it is a shame that either team had to lose and watch the Super Bowl on their couch. It was incredible watching the Chiefs celebrate, but very sad watching Joseph Ossai crying on the bench after his crucial mistake. At the end of the day, the two best teams in the NFL standings will face off in the game of all games, the NFL Super Bowl.
Joe Burrow went 26/41 for 270 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He had a QBR of 50.6. As a team, the Cincinnati Bengals only had 71 rushing yards. Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase led the way on the receiving end with 83 and 75 yards, respectively.
Patrick Mahomes went 29/43 for 326 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He did have the key fumble but turned out to be forgiven. The game was won on defense and threw the air, as Kansas City only had 42 rushing yards.
Marquez Valdez-Scantling had 116 yards, Travis Kelce had 78 yards, and Isiah Pacheco had 59 yards. Ten different receivers caught a pass for the Chiefs. Kansas City had five total sacks, led by Chris Jones and Frank Clark.
That was the Bengals vs Chiefs recap; now it is time to gear up for a memorable Super Bowl.