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3 things we learned in the Bengals’ AFC Championship Game victory

It still doesn’t seem real that the Bengals are going to Super Bowl LVI.

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Cincinnati Bengals are going to Super Bowl LVI.

Yes, you read that correctly. The Bengals are Super Bowl bound.

The Bengals punched their ticket to the Super Bowl after beating the Chiefs 27-24 in overtime.

Zac Taylor went 6-33-1 in his first two years as a head coach, and now will have a shot at the Lombardi Trophy. To make it more interesting, he’ll be going against his former head coach, Sean McVay.

After the emotional coaster of the AFC Championship, Bengals fans need two weeks off to recover for the final round.

Here’s what we learned from the Championship game:

Defense won a championship

We hear “defense wins championships” over and over again.

In the Bengals’ case, the defense won the AFC Championship.

The Chiefs scored on three straight possessions, then didn’t score again until time expired. The defense stopped Kansas City on the goal line to end the half, then kept covering up Mahomes’ favorite weapons.

After halftime, he only had 83 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns (with 38 of those yards coming in the final drive of regulation).

For the third time in three games this postseason, the Bengals forced an interception on the opponents’ last offensive play. For the second time in two games, that interception set up a game-winning field goal.

Credit goes to the secondary for stopping Mahomes in the second half. Even though the line got four sacks, most of them were coverage sacks. They covered up Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce long enough to make Mahomes to hold on to the ball or scramble.

The Bengals need a better plan for the offensive line

Burrow only took one sack against the Chiefs, even though it should have been more.

Still, it wasn’t a banner day for the offensive line. Burrow still had to get rid of the ball quickly and the run game was hit or miss all day.

Taylor did a great job of scheming better protection, and going from nine sacks in one game to one in the next is a major improvement.

The Bengals need to figure out who they want to play at right guard over the next two weeks.

They rotated Hakeem Adeniji, the de facto starter, and Jackson Carman throughout the game. It worked moderately well, but Rams defensive line is no joke. Whether it’s Carman, Adeniji, or even D’Ante Smith, the Bengals should figure what their plan for the line is.

The offense needs to pick it up

Sure, the Bengals can come back from an 18-point deficit, but it would be easier if they didn’t.

The Bengals trailed 21-3 in the second quarter, and had to play catch-up for most of the game. They trailed 14-0, then 21-7, in the Week 17 matchup in the regular season.

Slow starts isn’t a problem that has plagued the Bengals for long. In each of the last two playoff games, the Bengals scored on their first possession.

Wouldn’t it be much better to see the Bengals score on their first possession of Super Bowl LVI than to see them have to come from behind?