If Trey Hendrickson is T-Rex, then maybe it’s about time to start calling Sam Hubbard “Big Al.”
Because if the Tyrannosaurus Rex was the biggest, baddest creature in the jungle, the Allosaurus (Big Al) was not far behind.
And while Hendrickson is the Bengals’ sack leader this year, Hubbard is nearly as big of a threat to opposing quarterbacks.
The Cincinnati Bengals had just taken a 24-21 lead when Kansas City took over at its own 25-yard-line. The Chiefs drove all the way to a first-and-goal at the Cincinnati 5 with 1:30 left to play and seemed ready to take the lead and maybe the game.
But, on second and goal from the 4, Hubbard burst through the Kansas City line to sack Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes for a loss of nine.
On the very next play, Hubbard got to Mahomes again on a delayed rush, this time for a loss of 15 yards, and Kansas City was forced to settle for a tying field goal. These were probably the two biggest plays of Hubbard’s career and maybe of his life as a football player.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had sacks on back-to-back plays, let alone back-to-back plays to send us to the Super Bowl,” Hubbard said after the game. “So I guess that’s what happens when you just keep getting after it, stay the course. To be able to deliver that for my teammates, for the city, it’s hard to believe.”
Mahomes had torched the Bengals for touchdowns on the Chiefs’ first three possessions as Kansas City jumped out to a 21-3 lead. And he very nearly had a fourth when he marched the Chiefs 80 yards in just over a minute as halftime approached.
But Cincinnati cornerback Eli Apple stopped Tyreek Hill for no gain as time expired, and the Bengals went into halftime down 21-10.
The Kansas City signal-caller hit 13 of his first 14 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns, and Cincinnati could not seem to get close to him throughout most of the first half. Mahomes finished the half completing 18 of 20 passes for 220 yards, but it was the touchdown he didn’t get that he will remember the most.
Because it was the Chiefs’ failure to score at the end of the first half that proceeded to light the fire under a Bengals’ defense that seemed to be searching for footing in the first half.
After failing to get Mahomes to the ground through the first three quarters, Cincinnati sacked him four times in the fourth quarter. Hendrickson and B.J. Hill shared a sack as the fourth quarter began, and Hendrickson added another sack less than two minutes later.
Then it was Hubbard’s turn.
“It was a collective effort of everybody relentlessly pursuing him,” Hubbard said. “And that’s all we did. We just kept grinding the whole way, and it finally paid off in the end.”
The Bengals’ defense took charge in the second half as it held Mahomes to eight completions in 19 attempts for 55 yards, two interceptions, and just three points.
Overtime belonged to the Cincinnati defense, as well. Kansas City won the toss and took over at its own 25. Facing a third and 10, a Mahomes’ pass intended for Hill was tipped by Jessie Bates III and intercepted by Vonn Bell at the Bengals’ 40 and returned to the 45.
“We had the momentum,” Bell said. “We had stopped them six straight times. Situational football. We know they were looking at 87 (tight end Travis Kelce) and 10 (Hill). Then at the end of the game he went for 10. Jessie tipped it and I just ran to the ball. Making a play for the guys.”
Joe Burrow took over from there and drove to the Kansas City 13-yard-line before a 31-yard field goal by Evan McPherson ended it.
“We’re going to the Super Bowl,” Hubbard said. “When you say that, it’s hard to believe. I love this team. I love this city. We’ve got one more to get. I’m just on cloud nine now.”