KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Who Dey!? Not those same old Bungles. Not even close.
Joe Burrow and this young, hungry Bengal from Cincinnati are tied for the Super Bowl as unexpected and tenacious AFC champions.
Evan McPherson kicked a 31-yard field goal with 9:22 remaining in overtime after Burrow kept his cool as he led a furious comeback in the second half. They brought the Bengals to the NFL’s big game for the first time in 33 years with a 27-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC Championship on Sunday.
“It’s a special team that’s capable of doing special things,” said coach Zac Stacy, who was in grade school when the Bengals last went to the Super Bowl.
“We’ve said that from the start, whether people believed us or not,” he added. “We believed. So we’re not surprised.”
And who could blame them?
The Bengals were able to clear an 18-point deficit — a tie with an AFC title game record for greatest comeback — to take a late 24-21 lead over McPherson’s 52-yarder.
“I’d say no one blinked,” the rookie kicker said of the Bengals falling well behind early on. “I think we all thought we would come back and win the game.”
But Harrison Butker’s 44-yard kick when regulation time expired sent it to overtime a week after his 49-yarder on the final regulation play did the same against Buffalo.
And after Josh Allen of Bills ‘tails’ called and it came heads up for the overtime coin tossed in – giving Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs the ball to seal a wild 42-26 win – Cincinnati called back up quarterback Brandon Allen heads and the coin came up.
The Chiefs opened extra time with the ball again, but Vonn Bell intercepted Mahomes in the third play and Burrow and the Bengals took over.
And now they’re going to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1989 after winning their first playoff overtime game.
“Usually you go home when you lose those guys’ coin flip,” said Burrow, the sophomore quarterback for the Bengals. “Our defense really ramped up and played in the second half. And in the attack we made plays when we had to. I thought the offensive line played really well all day. We started running the ball there at the end and that’s exciting.
“Big win for us.”
You could say that.
The Bengals (13-7) will face the winner of the NFC Championship between San Francisco and the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl on February 13 in Los Angeles. Cincinnati lost to the 49ers in both previous trips to the Super Bowl.
Mahomes and the Chiefs (14-6) will be left to lament a chance at a third straight Super Bowl appearance.
“If you’re 21-3 at any point in the game, you can’t lose it,” Mahomes said. “I did that to myself.”
The Chiefs had a shot at a winning touchdown in the closing seconds of regulation, but sacks by Sam Hubbard in consecutive games forced Kansas City to settle for the tying field goal.
“We’re going to the Super Bowl,” Hubbard said. “It sounds crazy to say that.”
The Bengals have won six of their last seven games against the Chiefs, including two this season. But things didn’t look good for Cincinnati early in this game.
The Chiefs got a touchdown on their first three possessions, with Mahomes finding Mecole Hardman for a 3-yard score that made it 21-3 – and this one looked very much like a defeat. Mahomes joined Tom Brady (2014), Joe Flacco (2012) and Aaron Rodgers (2010) as the only three-game players to have three or more TD passes in a single postseason.
But Burrow kept the Bengals in it.
He threw a short pass to Samaje Perine, who avoided a tackle from Charvarius Ward and ran into the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown with 1:05 left in the top half.
The Chiefs seemed headed for their fourth straight touchdown drive to open the game, especially after Byron Pringle’s 10-yard catch put Kansas City in 15 with 13 seconds left — the chant of the excited Arrowhead Stadium crowd of ” 13 seconds!” who enjoyed the Chiefs’ stunning comeback against Buffalo last week.
A pass interference call to Eli Apple in the end zone put the ball in the 1, but the Chiefs were unable to get into the end zone on two tries, with Mahomes’ pass to Tyreek Hill losing a yard and ending the half. It ended up costing them money.
“I was hoping we would get the ball into the end zone,” said coach Andy Reid. “I probably played the wrong game in the first place. I could have given them something better than that. I take responsibility for that.”
McPherson’s 31-yarder narrowed Bengal’s deficit to 21-13 with 2:58 left in the third quarter.
Cincinnati got the ball back to the Chiefs 27 moments later when BJ Hill intercepted Mahomes’ short pass, intended for Demarcus Robinson. Two plays after Joe Mixon got 2 yards on the first goal out of 5, Ja’Marr Chase went over Rashad Fenton in the end zone to catch Burrow’s toss for a touchdown. Burrow then found a wide open Trent Taylor for the 2-point conversion to tie it at 21 with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.
Cincinnati’s 18-point comeback tied Indianapolis (vs. New England in 2006) for the biggest in AFC championship history.
“I wouldn’t call it surreal, I’d say it’s exciting,” Burrow said. “If you had told me before the season that we were going to the Super Bowl, I would probably have thought you were crazy. Then, you know, we play all season and nothing surprises me now.”
Burrow finished 23 of 38 for 250 yards with the two TDs and an interception. … Mixon rushed for 88 yards on 21 carries, including 28 yards on the last 42-yard drive. … Mahomes went 26 of 39 for 275 yards and TDs to Hardman, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, and was intercepted twice.
Bengals: TE CJ Uzomah twisted his left knee in the first quarter and didn’t return. He was sidelined in the second half.
Chiefs: Backup TE Noah Gray left with an ankle injury and was ruled out in the second half.
Bengals: Head to Los Angeles to play in their third Super Bowl, their first since 1989.
Chiefs: go home for the off season.
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