KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Almost a year to the day after the Cincinnati Bengals sent the Kansas City Chiefs home in overtime of last season’s AFC Championship Game, the Chiefs got their revenge. Playing through a high ankle sprain, quarterback Patrick Mahomes snapped Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ streak of three straight wins over Kansas City.
Harrison Butker sent the Chiefs to the Super Bowl with a 45-yard field goal to win 23-20. It is the Chiefs’ third Super Bowl berth in four seasons. They’ll face Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Mahomes had a message for Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton, who nicknamed the Chiefs’ home stadium “Burrowhead” after the Bengals’ divisional-round win over the Buffalo Bills.
“We showed this place is Arrowhead, it’s not ‘Burrowhead’ out here,” Mahomes said after the win.
Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes added another significant chapter to his legacy on Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium.
One week after suffering a high ankle sprain and hobbling around in the second half of the divisional round playoff win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Mahomes guided the Chiefs into the Super Bowl for the third time in four seasons. The Chiefs will play the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII after their win in the AFC Championship Game.
The Chiefs won on Harrison Butker’s 45-yard field goal with three seconds remaining. Mahomes completed 1-of-2 passes for 6 yards on the drive and scrambled for 9 yards leading to the field goal. He finished 29-of-43 for 326 yards and two touchdowns.
Not buying Valdes-Scantling’s breakout performance: Marquez Valdes-Scantling made some big catches for the Chiefs and finished with six receptions and 116 yards and a touchdown. He had similar games for the Chiefs this season but not enough of them. Most often, he’s just not going to be a high volume receiver for the Chiefs but one who delivers the occasional big play.
Promising trend: The Chiefs have reason to feel good about what they accomplished on defense. They pressured Burrow for much of the game and wound up with five sacks. They had two interceptions, something they managed just once in their three games against Burrow and the Bengals. They also made Cincinnati kick field goals twice while in the red zone.
Under-the-radar stats that matters: The Chiefs by the end of the game were playing without four of their top six wide receivers because of injuries or illness. JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee), Mecole Hardman (pelvis) and Kadarius Toney (ankle) were injured during the game. Justin Watson (illness) did not suit up. That left them with Valdes-Scantling, rookie Skyy Moore and a player called up from the practice squad on Saturday. — Teicher
Ja’Marr Chase’s gutsy catch on 4th down sets up Bengals’ TD
Ja’Marr Chase makes an unreal grab on fourth-and-six that sets up Samaje Perine for a short Bengals touchdown.
The streaks had to end eventually.
The Chiefs finally bested the Bengals in a 23-20 win in the AFC championship game. The Bengals couldn’t make it four straight wins over their conference rivals and finished the season on a loss after winning 10 straight games.
It was another classic game between the teams that came down to the end and featured big momentum swings. Cincinnati came close to another comeback win, but ultimately couldn’t keep Mahomes and Kansas City from ending their winning stretch in an enthralling series.
Buying Higgins’ breakout performance: Don’t sleep on Tee Higgins as a top receiving option. When the Bengals needed a completion in critical times on Sunday, Higgins was there. That was evident in the third quarter, when he went up and caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Burrow to tie the game at 13. He used his frame and ball skills to snag a jump ball that Burrow weighted well down the sideline. Cincinnati will have to make several contract decisions on key players in upcoming offseasons. Higgins is eligible for an extension this year and showed why he is worthy of being paid like a top receiver.
Biggest hole in the gameplan: Cincinnati struggled to keep Mahomes contained even though he was dealing with a sprained ankle. The Kansas City quarterback completed his first six passes outside of the pocket for 69 yards and a touchdown, per NFL Next Gen Stats. And when Mahomes had time to throw, he made the Bengals pay. Through three quarters, he was 13-of-19 passing for 198 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He finished 29 of 43 for 326 yards and two touchdowns.
QB breakdown: Burrow had a mixed bag against Kansas City. He struggled early, with the biggest flub a first-half turnover on a throw to Higgins. But Burrow also had key plays in which he was able to move the offense and trusted his receivers in tight spots. That happened when Burrow found Higgins on a 27-yard touchdown pass on a third down in the third quarter and again when Ja’Marr Chase caught a 35-yard pass on fourth-and-6 when he was double-covered down the middle.
Describe the game in two words: Another classic. Cincinnati and Kansas City delivered in the fourth installment of this series in two seasons and produced another thriller in the AFC Championship Game. — Baby