The Cincinnati Bengals snapped the Kansas City Chiefs’ five-game winning streak on Sunday with a 27-24 win at Paycor Stadium. The Bengals improved to 8-4 as the Chiefs fell to 9-3.
Let’s talk about the loss.
It may be tough to admit in Kansas City, but Patrick Mahomes has a fitting foe in Joe Burrow.
Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd made (Arrow)headlines this week when he likened the matchup between quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow to the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry of the 2000s. From 2001 to 2015, Brady and Manning met 17 times, including five times in the NFL playoffs.
With many considering it the greatest quarterback rivalry in league history, Mahomes wasn’t ready to go there when he was asked about it ahead of this week’s matchup against the Bengals — but he was willing to discuss the respect he has for Burrow.
“He’s a great football player, but he’s a competitor,” started Mahomes on the Bengals’ QB. “Those are the guys that win in this league are guys that compete. And so, I hate to compare it to Brady and Manning because they’ve won so much and put up so many stats and I feel like that’s something that you do at the end of your career when they look back and see all the success that you had.
“I know – just like a lot of these guys – I know that I’m going to play this guy for a long time. [Burrow’s] a great competitor, so he’s going to be on a great football team for a long time and then we’re going to have games like this. And so, I just try to go out there and win the week, and I know he does the same. We’ll see what happens at the end of the week and you move onto the next.”
Mahomes — even after Sunday’s loss to the Bengals — owns the greatest start to his career of all time (59 wins through 75 games). Still, he has never beaten Burrow — and Cincinnati’s quarterback has now defeated him three times in a row.
To be clear, that’s not a trend I expect to last — and it also should be said that quarterbacks don’t actually play against one another.
But in this game, they will always be compared — and as of now, nobody has had more success against the Chiefs’ quarterback.
The Chiefs’ lack of sustained pressure against Burrow once again killed their chances of winning.
The slow starts are one thing. All season, there have been games in which the Chiefs’ defense has seemed especially penetrable during the early going, resembling a unit that needs to be shaken to get going. Entering Sunday, Kansas City’s defense was allowing a passer rating of 117.1 in the first quarter — and Sunday’s bad start led to a 14-3 hole early in the second quarter.
More than slow starts, though, what is most troubling about the Bengals having the Chiefs’ number is Kansas City’s lack of pressure on the quarterback. Cincinnati’s offensive line has allowed to him to be sacked in every game this season — and in eight of those games, he’s been sacked at least twice.
But on Sunday, the Chiefs were only able to get home. The sack came from rookie George Karlaftis late in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, that was too late. Burrow rebounded on the next play to convert a third-and-11 with a 14-yard pass to wide receiver Tee Higgins.
There is no doubt the Chiefs have been better at getting to the quarterback this season — but when they see Burrow again, they have got to find a way to get home.
When you play a conference contender, you’ve got to play as clean a game as possible.
No game comes down to one play. The Chiefs are certain to know that they should have come better prepared in many different areas — including Kansas City’s coverage at the beginning of the game.
Also, when you have second-and-3 at an opposing team’s 8-yard line, that needs to be a six-point score — not a field goal. Later on, attempting a 55-yard field goal when your kicker has had a largely inconsistent season might be a decision you’d like to have back.
We’re just naming a few things.
Those mentioned, the Chiefs had the game in complete control as tight end Travis Kelce darted up and into Bengals’ territory for a first down just as the fourth quarter began. Yards after the catch is a major reason why the tight end is a future Pro Football Hall of Famer — but in that particular moment, fighting for an extra three or four yards may have cost Kansas City the game. Kelce lost the ball as he was surrounded by Cincinnati defenders.
We’ll never know what that alternate universe looks like. It must be said that there will be nobody sicker over the mistake than Kelce. But especially against other Super Bowl contenders, playing a clean game is the primary factor in getting it done.
There was just one turnover on Sunday — and the team that made it lost the game by three points.
The final word
There will be a fair share of panic in Kansas City this week. That is understandable. And there is no doubt that when you have so much success, losing to the same team three times in a row should sting — a lot.
But as hard as a pill as this will be to swallow, the reality is the Chiefs have plenty to play for. Now with a matching 9-3 record, the Chiefs will once again need help to jump ahead of the Buffalo Bills, who now hold first place in the AFC.
But the Chiefs’ remaining opponents have a record of 17-37-1, while the Bills play the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, these Bengals and the New England Patriots. The odds are that if the Chiefs can take of their own business — it’s more than plausible that the bye week could still be theirs for the taking.
That isn’t to say it will be easy — and a hard truth remains: playing games like Sunday’s will not result in a Super Bowl championship.