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9 winners and 4 losers from Bengals’ division-clinching win over Chiefs

The Chiefs had no answer for the Bengals’ passing game, but Cincinnati eventually found answers for Kansas City.

Kansas City Chiefs v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We’ve said this a lot in recent weeks, but in the latest “most important” game in recent Cincinnati Bengals history, the orange and black answered the bell and took down the Kansas City Chiefs.

With their 34-31 win, they not only clinched the AFC North, but are also still alive to take home-field advantage in the conference. It was the statement win of all statement wins, and we’ve got plenty of names to highlight from the day.

Winners

Ja’Marr Chase: The Chiefs have to practice against Tyreek Hill, and that wasn’t enough to prepare them for Uno. He had 111 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone, and both scores were incredible. He began by blazing past the Chiefs’ secondary for 72 yards to get the Bengals on the board after trailing 14-0. He followed that with a back-shoulder snag in the end zone for touchdown No. 2. Just look at the lead art. He’s palming the ball while getting both feet in bounds.

But he didn’t stop there. On the second play of the third quarter, Chase and Burrow connected once more on a busted coverage that resulted in a 69-yard score to make it a one-possession game again. After this, the Chiefs were just desperate to stop him by any means and were flagged multiple times while covering him.

And it didn’t. Stop. There. Chase kept his All-Pro clinching performance going in the fourth with two sideline grabs for a combined 65 yards, with one of them converting a third-and-27! The most aggressive drive in Zac Taylor’s career gave Chase a chance to show-out.

11 receptions. Three touchdowns. 266 YARDS. This was arguably the greatest game ever by a Bengals receiver, and it helped clinch a division title. Unreal.

Joe Burrow: There’s a difference between the Ravens’ secondary from last week and the Chiefs’ highly-productive defensive backfield. But Burrow showed this offense is here to stay, regardless of the competition. Burrow and Chase picked apart a vaunted Chiefs defense despite being pressured all throughout the afternoon.

In symbolic fashion, Burrow’s nameplate on the back of his jersey was torn off, as it was already tearing from getting hit too often. It was completely removed by the time the fourth quarter started, but he didn’t need it to engineer a six-minute game-winning drive. He would leave the field after taking one last hit, clearly showing a limp, but he didn’t need much attention on the sideline and said he felt “good enough” after the game.

Burrow broke the Bengals’ season records for yardage and touchdowns on his way to a 446-yard, four touchdown performance on 30-39 passing. No quarterback is playing at a higher level than him at the moment.

Trey Hendrickson: The Chiefs were down two left tackles before the first quarter expired, and Hendrickson ended up going against Joe Thuney for most of the game. Thuney held his own, but Hendrickson still managed to pressure Mahomes towards the second half. His historic half-sack streak may’ve ended, but Hendrickson’s presence was still felt.

Larry Ogunjobi: No. 65 had arguably the most complete game out of any defender. From the very first drive, he was firing off the ball and shedding blocks. When the rest of the defensive line was getting gashed, Ogunjobi broke free more than most.

Chidobe Awuzie: Nearly every member of the Bengals’ secondary had their fair share of lows against Patrick Mahomes and Co., but Awuzie kept things in front of him and made several stops short of the line. He wasn’t tested much in coverage, either, but he did run step-for-step with Tyreek Hill on a go-route and forced an incompletion.

Tre Flowers: Travis Kelce’s final stat line is as follows: five receptions, 25 yards, and a touchdown. You take that every single time the Chiefs come to town. Flowers did a magnificent job limiting Kansas City’s game-breaking tight end in coverage.

Tyler Boyd: Chase got the first three scores, but Boyd’s toe-dragging touchdown got the Bengals their first lead of the day. He may not be on pace to get 1,000 yards now unless he drops 200 on the Cleveland Browns next week, but he continues to show up when it matters the most.

Zac Taylor: For weeks, Taylor’s been called too conservative to run an offense with this firepower. That last drive should end all of those conversations. Instead of playing for field goal range, Taylor went deep twice in a row with 27 yards to go for the first down. Chase came through and set up the offense inside the red zone. Taylor proceeded to manage the clock and force the Chiefs to use their timeouts, but he had a decision to make on fourth down.

Inches from the goal-line, Taylor put the ball in his quarterback’s hands not once, but twice thanks to offsetting penalties. The Chiefs were flagged on the second play as well, and Taylor’s calculated gamble paid off.

There is no question about who Taylor is as a play-caller now. Even with his offensive line struggling, he knew the opposition would feast on any opportunity they could get at that juncture. He deserves all the credit after weeks of criticism in these similar situations.

He’s also a division-winning head coach in just his third year. He’ll be here for the long haul.

You all: Congratulations! You will see Bengals playoff football for the first time in six years. And with the way this team is playing, your expectations should be high.

Losers

First half defense: Cincinnati opened the checkbook for their defense over the past two off-seasons. That plan has produced a better unit as a whole, but in this game, against the offense they need to get past to get to the Super Bowl, they were as over-matched as they looked in the last two years. This isn’t to say the defense hasn’t improved, but despite all that investment, this still came down to simply outscoring the Chiefs’ high-powered offense.

They did get their act together in the second half. You’d just expect a little bit more out of the gate, even against that offense.

Offensive line: In general, the unit as a whole got out of the gate slow. Burrow was sacked twice in first five plays and allowed 10 pressures in the first half alone. They didn’t get much better as the game progressed.

It was a rough outing for Isaiah Prince. A handful of first-half pressures allowed included the last play of the second quarter when Burrow was hit as he threw and Quinton Spain injured his ankle in the aftermath of the collision. Hakeem Adeniji had his struggles against Chris Jones, who helped create a big third down sack in the third quarter. Jackson Carman also had his share of lumps.

Eli Apple: The culprit of the first score of the game, Apple thought he had inside help on deep post and ended up being burnt by Demarcus Robinson for a 29-yard touchdown. He nearly redeemed himself at the end of the period, but let an interception fall right through his hands.

Markus Bailey: The Germaine Pratt news meant Bailey was going to start his second-straight game, and it was not a good showing for the second-year player. He was consistently late to fill gaps in the run game and was swallowed by blockers.