When the game was officially over, Ja’Marr Chase was moved to tears. The all-world rookie has more receiving yards than any rookie has ever had including the postseason, he’s the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, and he’s expected to go up against one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in the Super Bowl.
Not many 21-year olds find themselves on this stage. For Chase, taking it all in was naturally overwhelming.
The Cincinnati Bengals moved past the Kansas City Chiefs for the second time in a month. An AFC North title and a Super Bowl berth came out of both games. Chase and his fellow rookies proved once again that the stage isn’t too big for them.
We usually sort this by how each player impacted their stock, but they all met their own expectations this week. Let’s go through them all as they’re now preparing for the Los Angeles Rams.
He’s vying for Adam Vinatieri’s postseason record of 14 field goals, but if you would’ve told someone four of Cincinnati’s possessions in Kansas City ended with Evan McPherson field goals instead of touchdowns, they would’ve believed the Chiefs would end up victorious. Sure enough, the Bengals needed every one of McPherson’s four kicks to topple the Chiefs, including yet another game-winner.
It’s crazy that this is the expectation for a 22-year old placekicker. It’s beyond his demeanor and collectiveness, he’s made 35 of his last 37 attempts. He’s been nearly automatic since the Green Bay fiasco, which seems like another season ago. The lone critique he may have for himself is nearly doinking the left upright on his 52-yard attempt in the third quarter in Arrowhead. That certainly made everyone in Cincinnati hold their breath.
19 games into his career, McPherson has now made 40 of his first 45 field goals. The previous rookie record for field goals made was 38, held by Chiefs’ kicker Harrison Butker. McPherson bagged that record officially after squeaking in that 52-yarder. It was also his 12th field goal beyond 50 yards from the start of the season, a new record as well.
The overtime-winner from 31 became his 12th made field goal of the playoffs, a rookie record, and it puts him two away from tying Vinatieri’s record of 14. Even if he doesn’t attempt a field goal in the Super Bowl, making all 12 attempts would be a postseason record for most made without missing. The current record is 10, set by Brandon McManus of the 2015 Super Bowl-winning Denver Broncos.
Ja’Marr Chase was breaking records out there too, albeit during a more modest performance. 54 yards on six receptions was enough to set a new rookie postseason record for receiving yards. His current total of 279 eclipsed Charlie Brown’s 39-year record of 242 during the Washington Commanders’ 1983 Super Bowl run. 244 yards was the previous Bengals’ postseason record for receiving yards set by tight end Dan Ross during the 1982 postseason.
Compared to his Week 17 showing, Chase was nearly shut out by the Chiefs’ secondary, and credit to that unit for making Chase’s life much harder in the first half. It took until the middle of the third quarter for Chase to break free. Joe Burrow escaped would-be sackers and found a wide open Chase downfield off a broken play. Burrow went right back to Chase the next passing play and drew a defensive pass interference.
That drive ended in a field goal, but a B.J. Hill interception (LMAO) gave Burrow and Chase a chance to finish a drive in the end zone. Chase found the soft spot of the Chiefs zone for 17 yards and got the offense to the five-yard line. A three-yard Mixon carry led to a failed goal-line fade to Chase off play action. Burrow wasn’t deterred, he simply had Chase line up closer to the formation and scratched the play fake. The fade worked the second time, giving Chase his first-career postseason score.
Kansas City made it a lot harder for the Bengals to generate explosive plays on Sunday. It speaks to the resolve of Chase and Burrow to overcome that and leave
Arrowhead Burrowhead Stadium with a win.
No one seems to know who will start at right guard against the Rams, but many are of the opinion that it should be Jackson Carman. Any faith that was left for Hakeem Adeniji evaporated when it became evident that the team wanted to rotate him and Carman during the AFC Championship of all games. While Adeniji had another underwhelming day, Carman wasn’t much better. He was beat with power, and he was beat with quickness. He had some moments in space and run blocking, but there was nothing discernibly different between him and Adeniji in pass protection.
10 days out from the Super Bowl, I’ve no idea who should start at right guard. Carman represents something different than the liability they know in Adeniji, but different doesn’t necessarily mean better in this case. If the fear is Aaron Donald’s power against Adeniji, who struggles to handle force, we must address Donald’s ultimate strength: quickness. That’s what makes Donald the ultimate unstoppable force. He swipes away punches and explodes off of the line like no defensive tackle has ever done before in football history.
Not exactly something Carman is capable of doing right now. Going through that process this week is as important as anything the Bengals will do leading up to kickoff.
It was deja vu for Tyler Shelvin when he picked Burrow up and placed him on his right shoulder in celebration of a program-altering victory. Shelvin played a lot more in LSU’s win over Alabama in 2019 than he did in Kansas City on Sunday, and that’s perfectly fine for the Bengals. Shelvin’s seven snaps were an indication of the game-script and where he is in the interior defensive line pecking order. The bye week may help the Bengals get healthier defensive line for next Sunday. Josh Tupou being available may send Shelvin back to the inactive list.
When Samaje Perine is taking screen passes to the house from 41 yards out, it’s just not gonna be a Chris Evans game on offense. Perine and Joe Mixon carried the load while Evans kept to his returner duties. He had one opportunity and took it 26 yards. Trey Hill stuck to field goal blocking while D’Ante Smith became the extra blocker for the offense’s heavy run packages.
Did Not Play
- Cam Sample (groin)