Opening thoughts... Cincinnati Bengals 27 Chiefs 24 (OT)
The Bengals rallied from down 21-3 on the road, took the lead, were forced to overtime and then Evan McPherson delivered his fourth field goal of the day to send the Bengals to their third Super Bowl in franchise history, 27-24. The 18 point comeback tied the largest in AFC Championship Game history.
Trailing by 18, the Bengals went on a 21-0 run to take the lead 24-21 on a 52-yard FG by McPherson with 6:04 left in regulation. But the Chiefs tied the game on the final play of regulation on a 44-yard field goal. Kansas City won the overtime toss and Jesse Bates tipped a Patrick Mahomes pass that was picked by Vonn Bell. The Bengals marched 9 plays and 42 yards and McPherson knocked home another game-winner.
It will be the Bengals vs Rams in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. The Rams opened as a 3.5 point favorite with a total of 51.5.
Biggest moment: Down 21-3 late in the first half, Samaje Perine took a screen pass 41-yards for a TD, picking up a huge block from Ja'Marr……it capped a 7 play-70 yard drive to cut the deficit to 21-10 with 1:05 left. The Chiefs marched back down the field and got the ball to the Bengals 1-yard line after an Eli Apple pass interference. But with :05 left, Andy Reid opted to run one more play. Mahomes tossed a swing pass to Tyreek Hill and he was wrapped up by Apple as time expired. No points. 21-10 Chiefs. The Chiefs got the 2nd half kickoff but were forced to punt and the Bengals had the momentum.
Deja Vu: 1st meeting...Bengals trailed by 11 at the half and then outscored KC 17-3 after halftime.
2nd meeting...Bengals trailed by 11 at the half and then outscored KC 17-3 after halftime.
Adjustments: The defense allowed a lot of yards after contact in the first half, but stifled the Chiefs in the second half. Per Next Gen: They dropped 8+ defenders in coverage on a season-high 35% of pass plays. Mahomes struggled against 8+ defenders in coverage, completing just 7 of 13 passes for 59 yards & an INT with 2 sacks. No TD allowed over the final 8 possessions for KC offense: End of half stop, Punt, Punt, INT, Punt, Punt, FG, INT. The defense rose up and delivered six consecutive drive stops after getting blitzed in the first 25 minutes of the game. They allowed just a FG from the 5:04 mark of the first half through overtime, after KC scored just three points over the final 32-minutes of the first meeting. First half: 21 points, 292 yards, 18 first downs. Second half: 3 points, 83 total yards, FG on 7 possessions. Mahomes was sacked four times and picked off twice in the second half. BJ Hill tipped a pass and picked it off in 3rd quarter. Tied at 21, Burrow made a poor throw and was INT on 1st down with 14:00 left in the game. But the D came up with a sudden change hold on another 3rd down Hendrickson sack. They have allowed just 4 TDs following 20 Bengals turnovers this year. KC drove to the Bengals 5 yard line with 90 seconds left in regulation Sam Hubbard had back-to-back sacks, including a 3rd and 9 loss of 15 yards that forced the game-tying FG.
Rise up: The defense has sealed or set-up the last three wins: Pratt picked off Derek Carr to end the Raiders game. Wilson intercepted a Ryan Tannehill pass tipped by Apple to set-up the winning FG vs Tennessee. 7 turnovers forced in the postseason: 59 points allowed in 3 games: 19 Raiders, 16 Titans, 24 Chiefs.
Defending Mahomes: He had his way and plenty of time in the first half 18-21, 220, 3 TD…0 sacks, 0 hits. But he was just 8 of 18 for 55 yards with 4 sacks and 2 INT in the second half. He rushed 3 times for just 19 yards, with a long of 11. Last week he rushed 7 times for 69 yards in the win over Buffalo. The four sacks tied his season high vs Tennessee in Week 7. His two interceptions tied a season-high (3x).
Big moment II: Burrow found Chase for a 2-yard TD to pull the Bengals to within 21-19 at the end of the 3rd quarter. The Bengals converted a 2-point pass from Burrow....to....Trent Taylor...it was 21-21.
Big moment III: Bell intercepted Mahomes off a Bates tip on the opening drive of OT. Apple had dropped an interception the play prior to the Bell pick.
Shooter: McPherson kicked four field goals for the third consecutive postseason games (32, 31, 52, 31 yards). He's 12 for 12 in the postseason. He has 12 FGs of 50+ this season.
Beast Mode: Tee Higgins came up big with 6 catches for a team high 103 yards. After going for 266 in the first meeting, Chase was held to 6 catches/54 yards....but blocked his tail off.
Joe B: 23 of 38 for 250 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT and just 1 sack. He was getting it out of his hands quickly. He did major damage with his legs, rushing 5 times for 25, picking up four first downs, including 3rd and 6 and 3rd and 7.
Protecting Joe: Burrow was sacked once and hit four times....one week after 9 sacks and 13 hits vs the Titans.
3rd down: The Bengals were 8 of 14.
Mixon it up: Mixon had 106 total yards...rushing for 88 yards on 21 carries (4.2) and added three catches for 18 yards.
Final drive: The game-winning drive was Mixon with five rushes (28 yards) and Higgins with two catches (18 yards), a Burrow run (-3 yards) to line up the FG and then the McPherson kick.
CJ Sadness: Uzomah suffered a lower left leg injury on the second drive of the game and was eventually carted off. He did not return. NFL Network reported an early diagnosis of an MCL sprain. He did join teammates on the CBS postgame set with a big smile. Red Zone: The Bengals settled for three FG and just one TD in four trips to the red zone.
KC duo: Kelce (10-95-1) and Hill (7-78-1) combined for 17 catches/174 yards/2 TD after being held to a combined 65 yards in the first meeting. Kelce's first catch (10 yards) was longer than any catch in the first meeting (9 yards). 1st half: Kelce/Hill 12 catches, 133 yds, 2 TD. 2nd half: Kelce/Hill 5-40 yds, 0 TD....0 catches for Hill.
Back-and-forth: Hakeem Adeniji started at RG, but was replaced by Jackson Carman in the second quarter. Adeniji returned in the second half.
Road warriors: Bengals are 7-2 on the road, excluding the season wrap-up at Cleveland.
Perfect: The Bengals move to 3-0 in AFC Championship Game appearances.