Another December, another important matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs. The Bengals went into Arrowhead needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and they came up just short, falling 25-17, while seeing their playoff hopes die.
Here’s a recap of how it all played out.
The Bengals got the ball first with a chance to quiet the Kansas City crowd early. Quarterback Jake Browning came out throwing, missing Drew Sample on the first play of the game. Following a one-yard Joe Mixon run on second down, Browning was able to scramble to pick up a third and nine. Browning went on to pick up two more first downs with his legs to extend the drive in to Kansas City territory. The drive would ultimately stall, but kicker Evan McPherson connected on a 44-yard field goal to cap off an 8:39 drive and give the Bengals a 3-0 lead.
Kansas City took over and quickly moved the ball down the field on Cincinnati on the legs of running back Isaiah Pacheco. Pacheco tallied 46 yards on three carries to get Kansas City in the red zone before capping the drive off with an eight-yard touchdown reception to put the Chiefs up 7-3.
The Bengals got the ball back and began to move downfield following a 24-yard connection from Browning to wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase before the quarter came to a close.
As the second quarter opened, the Bengals announced that wide receiver Tee Higgins had left the game with a hamstring injury and was questionable to return.
The Bengal offense again moved into Chiefs territory and got into the red zone on a nice catch and run by Drew Sample. After a pass to Mixon picking up a first down inside the 10-yard line, Mixon finished the drive on a seven-yard touchdown catch from Browning.
Kansas City’s first drive of the quarter never got off the ground as the Bengals forced a 3rd-and-seven and Trey Hendrickson stripped the ball from Patrick Mahomes, with Sam Hubbard recovering.
The Bengals took over inside Kansas City’s 25-yard line, and after a skirmish that resulted in offsetting penalties on Chase and Kansas City corner L’Jarius Sneed and a pass interference on Sneed in the end zone, the Bengals got the ball on the Kansas City one-yard line before Browning ran it in to extend the Bengals’ lead to 10.
Kansas City wouldn’t go away, quickly crossing the 50-yard line and threatening, as Pacheco took a screen 21 yards. After a third down stop, Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker connected on a 54-yard field goal to draw the Chiefs within seven.
The Bengals took over with 3:44 remaining in the first half but went three and out after a Tanner Hudson drop that would have extended the drive.
Pacheco continued to give the Bengal defense fits, but luckily, a Marquez Valdes-Scantling drop that could have been a touchdown was dropping, forcing Kansas City to settle for another field goal.
The Bengals entered halftime with a 17-13 lead.
Kansas City started the second half with the ball and the Bengal defense finally was able to contain Pacheco and force a three-and-out.
The Bengals got the ball back, and when faced with a third down in their own territory, Browning hit tight end Tanner Hudson to extend the drive. Browning and Chase connected on a 14-yard catch and run to move the ball into Chiefs territory. Browning went deep to Higgins on 3rd-and-9 and drew a pass interference penalty that set the Bengals up at the Kansas City 15-yard line. Sadly, the drive came up with nothing as the Bengals were stopped on a shotgun run on 4th-and-1.
The “bend, don’t break” version of the Bengal defense made a return as Kansas City again worked their way down the field to the Bengals 17-yard line, but a clutch tackle from Mike Hilton forced Kansas City to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Butker.
The Bengals came out on the move, connecting on a screen pass to Chase Brown that went for 19 yards. Unfortunately, that was about it, as two incompletions and a reception by Tyler Boyd weren’t enough to move the sticks again, and Brad Robbins punted the ball away. Chiefs return man Ritchie James seemed to lose track of where he was on the field and returned the ball from his own goal line, only getting to the nine-yard line.
After three penalties on the Bengal defense, Mahomes finally connected on a deep ball. Wide receiver Rashee Rice ran right past Cam Taylor-Britt, and Mahomes hit him for a 67-yard gain that set Kansas City up inside the Cincinnati 20-yard line as the quarter came to a close.
The Bengal defense again held to open the final quarter, forcing Butker to kick another field goal from 24 yards out, giving Kansas City a 19-17 lead.
The Bengals offense could muster only two yards on the ensuing possession, forcing another Robbins punt.
Kansas City again worked their way into Bengals territory and even converted a fourth down but was ultimately forced to settle for another 48-yard field goal, keeping Butker perfect on the day.
The Bengals couldn’t do anything with the ball. An intentional grounding call that was questionable at best set the Bengals back before Browning took a sack on third down, forcing yet another punt.
The following drive by Kansas City was more of the same. They moved downfield, the Bengals got a third down stop, and Butker again connected, this time from 48 yards, to put Kansas City up eight.
With the game essentially on the line, Browning and the Bengals offense took over from their own 25-yard line. Browning was sacked on second down, as Chiefs safety Justin Reid came through untouched. Faced with a 3rd and 12 from their own 38-yard line, the Bengals surrendered a second consecutive sack to Reid. That brought up a 4th and 18 where Browning connected with Tyler Boyd for 23 yards to keep the game alive. After just a meltdown in pass protection, Cincinnati was faced with a 4th and 27 and didn’t have another miracle in them.
Kansas City would take knees, run the clock out, and end the game.
Now, all that is left is looking forward to 2024 and the return of Joe Burrow.