Even with the Kansas City Chiefs resuming duties as hosts for an impressive fifth consecutive AFC Championship game, it’s hard to ignore the eleph... uhh... the tiger... in the room.
On Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals are returning to GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium (in case there were questions about the name) trying to end Kansas City’s season just short of the Super Bowl for the second straight year.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is undefeated against the Chiefs. He’s obviously been a major factor in making Kansas City fall short of its Super Bowl expectations. Chiefs safety Justin Reid sees him as a formidable opponent.
“He can make all the throws — deep balls, short balls — [and] he’s also very patient,” explained Reid. “He makes really good decisions with the football; [he] hardly ever turns it over. It’s really hard to get the ‘gimmes’ that sometimes you see [other] quarterbacks give... With him, you really have to take it away.”
Second-year linebacker Nick Bolton feels that the team has learned enough from previous losses against Burrow to prevent history from repeating itself, saying that the team aims to “make it as hard as we can” for Cincinnati’s quarterback.
“He [has] a great feel for the game,” noted Bolton. “We [have] to do a great job with [our] disguises throughout this week. He gets the ball out quick. Then if he holds onto it and sees a blitz, he’s got the checkdown to get to his hot routes. So he does a great job of that.”
Reid believes the defensive backfield of “rookies who aren’t rookies” are ready for the challenge ahead of them.
“We’re very confident in them; they’re built for this,” Reid boasted of his young players in the secondary. “We [saw] it again last week: [cornerback] Jaylen Watson coming up with a big-time play to ice the game for us. So they’re ready for this moment. We’re confident in them — and we’re going to go out and play.”
#Chiefs rookie corner Jaylen Watson said he caught his one-handed interception against the Jags with his broken hand. pic.twitter.com/MQXYJXZLIu— PJ Green (@PJGreenTV) January 25, 2023
But Reid acknowledged that the Kansas City defense will have to use every defensive tool in its arsenal to stop Cincinnati.
“You’re not going to win a game if you don’t get sacks [or] if you don’t get turnovers,” declared Reid. “Especially against an offense like this.”
Burrow will not be the only concern. Bengals players like wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and running back Joe Mixon will also garner a lot of the defense's attention.
“I think they do a great job with everybody they have in their scheme,” observed Bolton. “Mixing [them] around, putting them in different spots, different locations — trying to make the defense think a little bit — and throw them in the backfield a little bit as well.
“This game, we’ve just got to communicate. We’ve got to get in line and communicate — to get everybody to get on the line and just execute the game plan.”