The Cincinnati Bengals managed to survive an overtime classic in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 to advance to Super Bowl 56. This will be the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance since January of 1989.
After picking off Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the first possession of overtime, the Bengals marched down the field and set up a 31-yard game-winning field goal for kicker Evan McPherson. This was the rookie’s second straight game winner in the postseason.
Kansas City got the action started off midway through the first quarter when Mahomes hit wide receiver Tyreek Hill for a 10-yard touchdown pass to put them on the board 7-0. He continued his on-field wizardry early in the second when he scrambled to evade multiple defenders in the pocket and found tight end Travis Kelce for a five-yard touchdown. After a Cincinnati punt, the Chiefs extended their lead even further when the franchise QB once again marched his team down the field and found Mecole Hardman in yet another score.
Down 21-3 with their backs against the wall, Cincinnati started showing signs of life late in the first half. Quarterback Joe Burrow got his team to midfield before hitting running back Samaje Perine for a 44-yard TD to pull to within 11. Leaving a little bit too much time for the home team, the Chiefs offense raced down the field and were seemingly going to put more points on the board just before the half. However, much-maligned cornerback Eli Apple came up big for the Bengals by stuffing Hill at the one-yard line as time expired.
After McPherson inched the Bengals closer with a field goal late in the third quarter, defensive tackle B.J. Hill turned the game on its head when he tipped a Mahomes pass and pulled down an interception. Five plays later, Burrow found his trusted receiver target Ja’Marr Chase for a touchdown and a successful two-point conversion tied the game at 21.
In the fourth, the Bengals offense went on a 6+ minute drive that featured Burrow using his legs to convert back-to-back third down conversions. McPherson would eventually come back in to boot a 52-yard field goal that gave them their first lead of the afternoon with 6:07 remaining.
But of course the two-time reigning AFC Champions wouldn’t go down that easy.
The Chiefs methodically marched down the field in a drive that was highlighted by Mahomes finding Kelce on a seam route for 18 yards. They would get inside of the red zone within the two minute warning, forcing the Bengals to use their remaining timeouts to preserve the clock. On 3rd and nine on the nine with 39 seconds left, Mahomes had plenty of time in the pocket but was eventually chased down by Sam Hubbard for a sack. That set up a 44-yard Harrison Butker field goal to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Getting the ball first in overtime for the second straight week, Mahomes would be picked off on third-and-long by Vonn Bell, unable to replicate the magic of last Sunday’s OT victory over the Bills. Powered by Burrow and running back Joe Mixon, the Bengals set up the game-winning kick to boot their way to their first Super Bowl appearance in 33 years.