Final Score: Cincinnati Bengals 27, Kansas City Chiefs 24
The Chiefs no longer hold the top seed in the AFC playoffs following Sunday’s road loss in Cincinnati. The Chiefs still top the AFC West, but will need some help to regain possession of the postseason’s top seed.
Offense (Talon Graff)
The Kansas City offensive line had a long day against the Cincinnati defensive front, allowing two sacks on the day. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was forced to scramble on multiple plays due to pressure. He ended up with a well below-average day: only 223 passing yards and a single passing touchdown. He also scored on the ground as a rusher.
Offensive tackles Orlando Brown, Jr. and Andrew Wylie were repeatedly beaten around the outside edge by Bengals’ defenders. The line was once again without left guard Joe Thuney, so Nick Allegretti again started in his place. Still, the line was able to get enough push for the running backs to put together a decent outing.
The running game looked more in sync than the passing game — a rarity for the Chiefs. Rookie running back Isiah Pacheco and primary backup Jerick McKinnon led the way with a combined 117 rushing yards — 66 from Pacheco and 51 from McKinnon. Pacheco was also able to punch in a touchdown.
Mahomes struggled to find any chemistry with any of his receivers. Cincinnati frequently brought only three rushers while dropping eight into coverage. Marquez Valdes-Scantling made two nice catches to lead Kansas City with 71 receiving yards — but he was targeted six times and dropped a wide-open catch in the end zone.
Tight end Travis Kelce made another game-changing play — but this time, it was a rare negative: he lost a fumble on a key drive late in the game. The ensuing Bengals drive resulted in the game’s final score. Kelce gained only 56 yards and was kept out of the end zone for the first time since Week 9.
Offensive Player of the Game: Running back Isiah Pacheco
The rookie out of Rutgers was able to find space between the tackles for a few decent runs. His effort and tough running has not dwindled at all; the kid’s motor seems unstoppable. Pacheco had 82 total yards from scrimmage and scored a touchdown on the ground — his third of the season.
Defense (Bryan Stewart)
Kansas City’s defensive performance on Sunday can be summarized in one word: terrible.
It didn’t matter what coordinator Steve Spagnuolo tried. The unit was just unable to get repeated pressure on Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. This enabled Burrow to play freely, always finding open receivers — typically in the middle of the field. If any further evidence is needed, this stat should sum it up: Burrow was sacked exactly one time.
Cincinnati seemed to have the perfect game plan for the Kansas City defensive line. Chris Jones was double-teamed on basically every play. When Spagnuolo elected to blitz, it was blocked up better than any offense has done in recent memory.
At a minimum, the defense’s effort was highly questionable and embarrassing. Another game anything like it will get this team bounced from the playoffs against a team like the Bengals — or the Buffalo Bills.
Samaje Perine rushed for over 100 yards while Burrow threw for nearly 300 of his own, never once turning the ball over. End of story. This defense has to take a long hard look in the mirror.
Defensive Player of the Game: Defensive end Carlos Dunlap
Right before halftime, Dunlap made the one defensive play you’ll remember: a tackle-for-loss on a fourth-and-1 at the goal line that kept the Bengals from adding a score before intermission. Without Kelce’s fumble later in the game, we might now be looking at it as the play that turned the tide toward a Kansas City victory.