We knew this one would be tough, but those Kansas City Chiefs were definitely playing inspired football this afternoon. They swarmed the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense and continuously marched down the field and scored points behind Patrick Mahomes often.
Here are the best and worst performances by the Bengals in their win over the Chiefs to get them to the Super Bowl.
What a performance by the longtime assistant coach. His kicker had huge kicks, his punt returner made a handful of solid returns and his special teams unit performed well as a whole.
Don’t doubt No. 9. Ever. The dude just keeps battling and willing the team to wins and puts out impressive performances in every single game. Even when things are off-kilter, the Bengals and Burrow find a way to get it done.
Burrow had a couple of errant throws in the second half, but more than made up for it with moxie. Case in point were the couple of crazy first down runs in the second half, leading to the go-ahead field goal at the time.
Oh, and the Bengals completed the biggest deficit in a Conference Championship Game.
He had a missed assignment at one point in the game, but he came up with a big touchdown catch early in the game, when points were at a premium.
With Ja’Marr Chase getting off to a slow start to this contest, Higgins came up with some big early catches and another one on a big drive in the fourth quarter. He quietly had six catches for 106 yards to cap off an outstanding second season.
The second half defense:
What a difference two quarters makes. Cincinnati had no answers for the Chiefs offense throughout the first two quarters, but a goal line stop at the end of the second quarter sparked the comeback.
Cincinnati limited the Chiefs’ offense to just six points in the final two quarters and also had two sacks and an interception. They let up points at the end of the game, yes, but roared back and gave the offense ample chances as well.
It was a rough half for a lot of the defense, including members of the secondary, but Hilton had a couple of crucial plays later. He had two passes defended in the second half and was a key cog in the comeback.
It was a slow start for the Bengals’ star wideout, but he came up big when they needed him. He grabbed the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter and made a few other catches. Credit to Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo for making the necessary adjustments this week, but Chase still gave the Chiefs’ defense fits.
Ice in his veins. He was three-for-three again in regulation, including a dramatic 52-yarder to give the Bengals a short-term, fourth quarter lead.
But, as usual, McPherson was money. He’s 12-of-12 in the postseason, with his second game-winning field goal in as many weeks.
The Bengals need to find a way to get this guy back next season. The veteran defensive tackle had a tipped ball he intercepted himself and another huge sack on a Chiefs possession late in the second half.
Fans of both teams:
I know Chiefs fans are salty after this one, but this was a game for the ages. Patrick Mahomes was excellent in the first half, but Burrow gutted out an insane second half performance.
And, don’t worry: there will be plenty of high-profile games between these two going forward.
Zac Taylor and Brian Callahan:
It wasn’t pretty, but the Bengals did just enough on offense against a powerhouse in their home. The runs may have maddened folks early, but there was a method to the madness and Joe Mixon ground out tough runs late.
Cincinnati was able to sustain drives and keep Kansas City off of the field late in the game, for the most part. These two have molded into two of the league’s great, young offensive minds.
Second half Lou Anarumo:
Wow, what an adjustment from the team’s defensive coordinator. In nearly two full quarters, Cincinnati couldn’t generate pressure, couldn’t stop the run and had little answers for the Chiefs’ aerial attack.
In the second half and overtime, Anarumo’s defense responded with three points allowed, two interceptions, a forced fumble and three sacks.
The veteran defensive end came up big late in the game. Hubbard was credited with two sacks and a forced fumble on the Chiefs’ last possession of regulation. Hustle, hustle, hustle by No. 94.
It was a rough first half for Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates, but they were big reasons for the Bengals’ comeback late. Bell had an interception of Mahomes in overtime and Bates had a late, critical defended pass.
Areas of concern:
The right side of the offensive line:
Be it the continuing issues from Hakeem Adeniji and Jackson Carman (they were both swapped out for each other in this game), or Isaiah Prince giving up a critical sack and parallel holding call on Melvin Ingram, the Bengals appear to still have big long-term questions on the right side of the line.
First half offense and defense:
The Bengals overcame a historic deficit to get to the Super Bowl. However, they fell into a gigantic hole against an AFC juggernaut. Their opponent next week will present problems, and while we have belief they can win any game, Lady Luck may run out.