Elation Erupts For Bengaldom With Another Super Bowl Trip

KANSAS CITY _ After receiving the Lamar Hunt Trophy, emblematic of the AFC title, from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Bengals president Mike Brown, spoke for the fans.

As he came off the presentation stage wearing a Paul Brown Stadium ball cap, he observed, “I feel elated as I know how to be.”

Which is exactly how his running back felt.

After he pounded out his final 28 yards on five carries to clear the Bengals road to the Super Bowl in Sunday’s overtime, Joe Mixon ran over to the stands and the slice of Bengaldom erupted.

The stunned Chiefs left their building to a Who Dey convention following the 27-24 overtime loss in one of the greatest of AFC title games.

Mixon saluted them and began taking selfies. As they did all day, his teammates followed him and then they engulfed the CBS set where old Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason was unsuccessfully trying to do the postgame.

Later, Esiason could only say, “Amazing. Amazing.”

Also on sight was Esiason’s iconic teammate from that last Bengals Super Bowl team, Ickey Woods, and as Woods ran around taking selfies with the new legends, Esiason recalled how bad Woods looked in the runway just a few minutes ago.

“He wasn’t doing good at the end of regulation,” Esiason said. “I told Ickey, ‘It’s OK, we’ve got this.’ I just had a feeling.”

When it was 21-10, Esiason told the crew, the Bengals were going to win, but they needed something happen. It just so happened that one of the crew is Brian Coyle, a relative of a former long-time Bengals assistant coach Kevin Coyle.

“Then BJ Hill got the interception,” Esiason said of the defensive tackle’s tip-catch pick of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes that set up the tying touchdown.

“I looked at Brian and I said, ‘There it is,” Esiason said. Their defense played unbelievably in the second half.”

BELLWETHER PLAY: If Esiason thought there was some déjà vu, who can blame him. The last time they were in this game 33 years ago, the defense had three interceptions in the 21-10 over the Bills. But these were absolute killers. Bengals strong safety Vonn Bell flipped the script after they lost the over time coin toss. Mahomes was supposed to take the ball and score on the first drive that would be it.

But the Bengals are still unbeaten in AFC title games. 3-0. Now 1-0 on the road.

Bell and fellow safety Jessie Bates III had their eyes on Chiefs ace wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Hill did not have a catch in the second half or now after getting seven in the first half.

On the third snap of OT, Mahomes went deep to the sideline and Bates leaped with Hill and tipped it. Bell ran under it and hauled it to the Bengals 45.

“We had the momentum. We had stopped them six straight times,” said Bell of the second half, with a bottle of champagne in his Zoom media call. “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.”

SLANTS AND SCREENS: How fitting that it was Cincinnati native Sam Hubbard that kept Mahomes out of the end zone with back-to-back sacks at the end of regulation?

“We’re going to the Super Bowl. When you say that, it’s hard to believe,” Hubbard said. “I love this team. I love this city. We’ve got one more to get. I’m just on cloud nine now.” …

Speaking of clouds, the Chiefs switched up and played rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase in cloud coverage. They held him until the tying drive and he had 46 of his 54 yards in the second half, including the huge third-down two-yard touchdown on a fade from quarterback Joe Burrow that he muscled for his first TD since the last win over the chief.

“They were playing even more outside technique than I thought they would,” said Chase, who did his damage inside after the adjustment. “The touchdown, I just went up and got it.”

He said he had talked to Burrow about it right after the game. How they have now won back-to-back titles, since Chase opted out in 2020 after LSU won the national title.

Mahomes is now 8-3 in the playoffs. Two to Tom Brady and one to Burrow.

“And I’ve done both with you,” said Chase, who on Sunday became the postseason’s all-time rookie yardage leader.

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