The Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals provided a significantly more competitive matchup in the AFC Championship than what audiences received during the NFC Championship. With the right to face the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl on the line, the Chiefs pulled off the late victory over the Bengals, 23-20.
The Chiefs’ defense brought pressure against the Bengals’ offensive line early. Cincinnati’s first two drives were stalled by sacks. Aided by a dropped touchdown pass and a holding penalty, the Bengals’ defense stood stout against an aggressive Chiefs offense. The Bengals held the Chiefs to two field goals on their first two drives of the game.
Cincinnati adjusted. The team picked up a few third-down conversions and managed a field goal to get on the board midway through the second quarter. The Chiefs answered, scoring the first touchdown of the game off a 14-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce on fourth-and-one. A 90-yard drive by the Bengals ended with a field goal, cutting Kansas City’s lead to 13-6 at halftime.
The Bengals tied the game after forcing the Chiefs to punt on the opening drive of the second half. Joe Burrow found Tee Higgins on a 27-yard sideline pass to the endzone. Both teams exchanged touchdowns and some interesting officiating decisions, bringing the score to 20-20 with 40 seconds left in the game.
Skyy Moore returned a Bengals’ punt to midfield. A scramble by Mahomes on third-and-four gave the Chiefs enough yardage for the first down. Bengals’ defensive lineman Joseph Ossai hit Mahomes late as he ran out of bounds, giving the Chiefs extra yardage off the penalty. Harrison Butker nailed the ensuing 45-yard field goal.
Cincinnati Bengals cannot overcome Kansas City Chiefs despite improved O-Line play
After giving up three sacks on their first three drives, the Bengals only gave up two sacks the rest of the game. The offensive line adjusted to the Chiefs pass rush, and Burrow was quicker to throw or scramble.
Burrow finished with 270 passing yards, a passing touchdown and two interceptions. Big plays from Ja’Marr Chase and Higgins helped the Bengals keep the score close. Chase caught a deep pass on a fourth down conversion, which set up a Samaje Perine touchdown to tie the score.
On the team’s final drive, the Bengals faltered. A penalty set the offense back, and the offensive line gave up a sack on third down. The following punt all but sealed the Bengals’ fate.
Patrick Mahomes guides the Kansas City Chiefs to victory
Mahomes played the game on an ankle injury he suffered in Kansas City’s previous matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The former league MVP was by no means perfect throughout the game. He missed some easy throws, well, easy by Mahomes’ standards, and he lost a fumble as well. However, he performed well enough when it mattered.
Mahomes finished the game with 326 passing yards and two passing touchdowns. He found receiver Marquez Valdez-Scantling for 116 yards and a touchdown. Valdez-Scantling led both teams in receiving yards. Kelce tallied 78 receiving yards of his own and often made the routine off-schedule plays that he and Mahomes are known for.
Mahomes will make his third Super Bowl appearance in four seasons, with an opportunity to bring home his second Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The Kansas City Chiefs will take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 at 6:30 p.m. EST on Fox. League MVP finalists Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts will go toe-to-toe at State Farm Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
(Featured Image Credit: Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK)