KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)The Kansas City Chiefs probably felt as if they were looking in a mirror on Sunday in Cincinnati.
There was a young, hotshot quarterback carving up their defense for 446 yards and four touchdowns. An equally young, dynamic wide receiver catching 11 balls for 266 yards and three of the scores. And a talented young running back that was doing just enough on the ground to keep the defense frustrated.
Sounds a lot like the Chiefs, huh?
Joe Burrow’s incredible performance and Ja’Marr Chase’s record-setting day catching his passes – and some help from Joe Mixon and the run game – was enough to lift the Bengals to a 31-28 victory and the AFC North title.
It also left the Chiefs looking in the mirror at themselves.
Their defense committed breakdowns that hadn’t happened since early in the season. Patrick Mahomes threw for 259 yards and a couple of TDs, but the Chiefs offense didn’t reach the end zone in the second half. Both sides of the ball were responsible for 10 penalties, including a couple that ruined a goal-line stand that would have forced overtime.
There also was a coaching letdown. If the Chiefs would have let the Bengals score at the goal line, they could have gotten the ball back with a chance to drive for a tying touchdown and force overtime on their own.
Instead, the Bengals got a winning field goal as time expired and Kansas City dropped out of the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
”This is a response-driven league,” Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said. ”I just didn’t think we responded well enough today. I know some people are gonna talk about certain calls that were made late in the game, and outside of that I still feel like we could have responded a lot better defensively.”
Now, the Chiefs (11-5) are in a predicament. Their regular-season finale against Denver was flexed to Saturday, and they will need to win and hope Tennessee loses to Houston on Sunday to climb back into the top spot and earn a first-round bye.
With a loss, the Chiefs could conceivably fall out of the No. 2 seed depending on results elsewhere.
”As coaches and players, you learn from it. That’s all you can do right now,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. ”The guys battled and I thought played good, aggressive football. We just came up short against a good team. And so we’ll go back, we’ll study it and we’ll try to get better from it.”
The Chiefs defensive line kept stuffing Cincinnati at the goal line in the final minutes, and in truth it played well most of the game. It only allowed 60 yards rushing, Chris Jones had two of their four sacks and they hit Burrow 10 times in all.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The secondary. Could there be any other answer? Chase made cornerback Charvarius Ward and the rest of his teammates look foolish on Sunday, while Tee Higgins caught three balls for 62 yards and Tyler Boyd had four for 36 yards and a score.
Darrel Williams ran 14 times for 88 yards and two touchdowns while catching three passes for 19 yards, carrying a heavy load with starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire dealing with a shoulder injury. Williams also did it behind a pair of backup tackles after Orlando Brown Jr. got hurt in warmups and Lucas Niang left during the game.
Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce were underwhelming once again, Hill in his second game since having COVID-19 and Kelce in his first. Hill was held to six catches for 40 yards while Kelce had five for 25 yards and a touchdown.
The Chiefs hope to get Edwards-Helaire back for the playoffs. It’s unclear how long Brown (calf strain) will be out. Niang is likely done for the season after tearing his patellar tendon against the Bengals.
0 – The amount of money Reid was willing to pay the NFL for complaining about the officiating Sunday. Several of the calls were questionable, including a pass interference penalty on L’Jarius Sneed.
”I’d like to comment on each one but I don’t want to be fined,” Reid said.
The Chiefs need to beat the Broncos on Sunday and then hope former assistant David Culley can lead Houston past the Titans on Sunday. That would give Kansas City the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, a first-round bye and home-field advantage.
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