In Week 13 of the regular season, the Cincinnati Bengals handed the Kansas City Chiefs a 27-24 defeat. That marked the Chiefs’ third consecutive loss in recent games — all of which took place in a calendar year.
December’s loss was incredibly embarrassing because it came on the heels of trash talk from Kansas City safety Justin Reid. Providing bulletin-board material for other teams has been uncharacteristic of head coach Andy Reid’s teams during his decade with the Chiefs. The coach later implied that the issue had been addressed with his key defensive player.
Now, for the second consecutive season, quarterback Joe Burrow and his Bengals teammates will travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs in Sunday’s AFC Championship. Heading into the rematch of last season’s conference title game, the AFC North champions appear to be driving the banter. Caught on camera during the team’s victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Cincinnati cornerback Mike Hilton called the Chiefs’ home field “Burrowhead” stadium.
Coach Reid understands their confidence.
“They probably should [feel confident],” he acknowledged before Wednesday’s practice. “They’ve won three games, so I’m sure that’s how they feel. That’s okay. We’re still going to play the game.”
The coach appeared to be setting a precedent for his team, taking the high road about its rival.
“I’d just tell you they’re a real good football team,” Reid observed. “They don’t have a lot of weaknesses on either side of the ball — or special teams — so that part hasn’t changed from the first time we played them. They’re good — or they wouldn’t be here at this round.”
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes spoke after his coach, showing little interest in engaging in taunts between players.
“We just go out there and play football at the end of the day,” said the league’s passing leader. “All that stuff? You can talk throughout the week — but at the end of the day, it’s a football game. You have to go out there and play it. So we believe in just going [and] showing up on Sunday, playing our best football and seeing what happens.”
According to Mahomes, Kansas City’s shortcomings in previous matchups with Cincinnati should be the team’s only focus.
“We’ve obviously lost to this team three times in a row,” he explained. “We’ve had great football games against them, but they’ve been able to beat us situationally at the end of games. And so, how can we be better there?
“We know it’s going to be a close football game; every team you play in this position is going to be a close football game. But how can we be better situationally — that we go out there and we’re able to execute on third down, the red zone and the end of games in order to win against a good football team?”
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster — who played his first five seasons in the AFC North with the Pittsburgh Steelers — is used to this rhetoric from a very familiar opponent.
“I’m sure a lot of guys are aware of the comments that they’re making,” he admitted. “I’ve been playing against this team since I’ve been in the NFL — so it’s nothing new to me. The Bengals have always been the ‘Ra-Ra’ team — and they back it up. And that’s what they’ve been doing this whole season.
“It’s just more so for us — for me — to go out there and just play ball. And have fun. And just talk with my shoulder pads and helmet.”
Justin Reid also addressed the media on Wednesday. This time around, it would be an understatement to say he is taking a more restrained approach toward the Bengals.
“I think we all saw it,” Reid said of the “Burrowhead” comments. “Those guys [were] having fun, since they won the game. We’re going to just let our play on the field speak for us.”