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Chiefs reflect on AFC title loss as they prepare to face Bengals

Kansas City hopes to come on top when the teams play for the third time in 2022.

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Eight years ago, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick coined the phrase “on to Cincinnati” following a blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The words have now become synonymous with putting a difficult loss in the rearview and focusing on the next opponent.

Unlike the 2014 Patriots, the Chiefs will travel to face the Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday, coming off a 26-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams. They have their own demons of the recent past to exorcise, however, after January’s 27-24 loss to Cincinnati in the AFC Championship game — a game the Chiefs once led by 18 points. This came less than a month after Kansas City blew another halftime lead in Week 17’s 34-31 loss in Cincinnati.

Sunday’s revenge-game with the 7-4 Bengals may be key to the 9-2 Chiefs capturing the AFC’s number one seed (and only postseason bye). After Sunday’s game, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes revealed that he is definitely not over the most-criticized performance of his career.

“It’s not a good place,” Mahomes said of his mindset from January’s loss. “They beat us. I played terrible in the second half — and we lost at home [when] that could have sent us to the Super Bowl.”

AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

The current league leader in passing yards and touchdown throws knows his team cannot let off against the Bengals.

“You learn that you’ve got to just continue to push,” Mahomes said of what he took from the loss. “You can’t be satisfied with where you’re at. We scored a lot of points that first half — and went in kind of thinking we were just coast to the Super Bowl.

“But they’re a team that’s going to fight. They’re going to fight to the very end. That’s why they were in the Super Bowl. So we have to make sure we go in with two great halves of football — however long it takes.”

Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton shared his own regrets about the AFC championship game when he spoke after Sunday’s win.

“Cincinnati — they got us twice last year,” the second-year player recalled. “We didn’t tackle very well. We didn’t tackle the quarterback. We had a lot of missed opportunities last years to kind of end the game with sacks and getting behind the sticks. We didn’t do that.

“That kind of sticks on me — and also I had two dropped interceptions I believe, that game. It’s one of those things that kind of stung in the offseason when I looked back on the game and watched it.”

Syndication: The Enquirer Albert Cesare/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Owning his performance from January has been key to Bolton’s motivation to improve in his second campaign and become one of the defense’s leaders.

“I don’t think I played very good, personally,” he admitted. “I feel like this year, I had to come in and be better for our defense to be where it needs to be. I spent a lot of time on that one in the offseason.”

Though the Chiefs won Sunday, the offensive output against the Rams — with only one touchdown in red zone possessions — left much to be desired. Knowing the upcoming opponent, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid declined to discuss adjustments he plans to make this week.

“I’m not going to tell you,” Reid said of potential fixes, “because we’ve got to play Cincinnati coming up here.”

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