NFL News & Analysis

AFC Championship Game Recap: Cincinnati Bengals 27, Kansas City Chiefs 24

Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson (center) celebrates his game-winning field goal against the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime with punter Kevin Huber (left) and guard Hakeem Adeniji (right) of the AFC Championship Game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals faced the Kansas City Chiefs for the second time this season, tasked with repeating their regular-season comeback victory with one in the AFC Championship Game.

Remarkably, the game script seemed to play out exactly as it did in Week 17, with the Bengals again finding themselves in a hole before clawing their way back and tying the game up before heading into the fourth quarter. Kansas City sent the game to overtime with their first points of the second half but turned the ball over with their possession, giving Joe Burrow the chance to drive and win the game 27-24.

In two weeks, Cincinnati will take on either the San Francisco 49ers or Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 56.


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Cincinnati Bengals

Quarterback

The biggest difference between this week’s and last week’s performance was that Joe Burrow didn’t take the costly sacks that he did in Tennessee. Burrow was sacked on just one of his 16 pressured dropbacks, and he turned several of those pressures into key first down scrambles late on escape acts. 

Burrow did have a pair of turnover-worthy throws that will bring down his overall grade for the game — one on an underthrown ball to the sideline that was intercepted and one on a ball that should have been picked by Kansas City's Nick Bolton

Running Backs

The Bengals' run game with Joe Mixon was largely inefficient, but head coach Zac Taylor stuck with it. Mixon carried the ball 21 times for 88 yards, and 18% of his carries resulted in a first-down conversion. 

Both Mixon and Samaje Perine caught three passes for a combined 70 yards. Perine got the Bengals their first touchdown of the game toward the end of the first half with a 41-yard catch-and-run. 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Ja’Marr Chase did not have nearly the same kind of impact as he did in Cincinnati’s regular-season victory over the Chiefs, where he carried the Bengals to victory with 266 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers make his six receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown today look subdued by comparison. 

Tee Higgins led the way, instead, with six receptions and 103 receiving yards. Three of Higgins’ six receptions went for 15-plus yards. 

Routes Run Targets Receptions YPRR
Ja'Marr Chase 42 9 6 1.29
Tee Higgins 40 9 6 2.58
Tyler Boyd 38 4 4 0.50
Drew Sample 27 2 1 0.15
Offensive Line

The right guard continued to be the weakest link offensively for the Bengals. Hakeem Adeniji started the game, but he was promptly benched after allowing a team-high three pressures. His replacement, Jackson Carman, ended up leading the unit with six pressures allowed in the game, per PFF’s first-run analysis. 

The rest of the offensive line held up relatively well in pass protection. 

Defensive Line

Trey Hendrickson continues to look like one of the better free agent signings in the NFL last offseason. He was involved in two sacks and five other pressures, pending review. He had a massive impact, particularly in the second half. 

B.J. Hill was another 2021 acquisition on the defensive line who made a key play, intercepting Mahomes in the second half and handing Burrow a short field to work with. 

Pass-rushing snaps Pass-rush win rate Total Snaps
B.J. Hill 38 10.5% 62
Sam Hubbard 31 6.5% 51
D.J. Reader 30 6.7% 45
Trey Hendrickson 27 33.3% 44
Wyatt Ray 13 0.0% 17
Linebackers

Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt were among Cincinnati’s lowest-graded defensive starters on PFF’s first-run analysis of the game. They combined to allow 10 receptions for 86 yards into their coverage, pending review. 

Defensive Backs

It looked like it was going to be a rough outing for Cincinnati’s secondary, but they tightened things up in the second half. Eli Apple was the most heavily targeted member of that group, allowing six receptions on eight targets for 54 yards and a touchdown. Apple was also penalized in the end zone. 

Jessie Bates made one of the biggest defensive plays of the game in overtime to force the incompletion and set up the Vonn Bell interception of Mahomes. 

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Kansas City Chiefs

Quarterback

There was no stopping Patrick Mahomes in the first half. He posted an adjusted completion rate of 100% and a passer rating of 149.9, generating 10.5 yards per attempt — but then things stalled.

After halftime, Mahomes managed an adjusted completion rate of 52.9%, a passer rating of 12.3, and an average of only 3.1 yards per attempt. He should have been picked off the play before he eventually was in overtime.

Mahomes Dropbacks Passer Rating YPA Adjusted Comp. %
First Half 22 149.9 10.5 100.00%
Second Half and OT 24 12.3 3.1 52.90%
Running backs

Jerick McKinnon led the team in carries with 12 despite the Bengals playing with a lot of two-high looks and inviting the Kansas City ground game. McKinnon averaged 5.4 yards per carry, and the Chiefs as a team averaged 5.8.

Wide receivers/Tight ends

Travis Kelce caught 10 of the 11 passes thrown his way for 95 yards, and while Tyreek Hill had 78 yards on seven catches by halftime, the only two passes sent his way in the second half and overtime were either incomplete or intercepted.

Offensive line

All five Chiefs linemen played every snap in the game, and four of the five held up very well in pass protection. The plays where Mahomes was taken down were typically coverage sacks, with Mahomes holding onto the ball an average of 8.95 seconds on those plays.

Defensive Line

Chris Jones was impressive up front but not quite the game-changing force he had the potential to be based on what we saw from Cincinnati’s offensive line a week ago.

Jones recorded a pass-rush win rate of 18.8% on PFF's first review of the game film, but none of those plays were sacks and he slipped off one play where he had Joe Burrow dead to rights in the backfield.

Player Pass Rushes Stops Pass-Rush Win Rate
Melvin Ingram III 35 1 11.40%
Chris Jones 32 3 15.60%
Frank Clark 32 1 3.10%
Jarran Reed 31 2 16.10%
Tershawn Wharton 13 0 7.70%
Linebackers

Willie Gay Jr. barely played earlier in the season, but he posted multiple pass breakups in this game, shutting down underneath passes and getting his defense off the field. Nick Bolton had multiple chances at securing an interception from Burrow — one easier than the other — and couldn’t come up with either.

Secondary

L’Jarius Sneed was the most targeted player on the Chiefs defense and allowed seven catches from eight targets. The eighth, however, was a great play that resulted in an interception as the teams traded possessions in the second half.

Player Coverage Snaps Targets Yards
Charvarius Ward 41 7 60
L'Jarius Sneed 41 8 83
Rashad Fenton 39 5 19
Willie Gay Jr. 26 6 33
Tyrann Mathieu 42 3 35
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