The Kansas City Chiefs threatened to run away with Sunday's AFC showdown against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase had other ideas. The Bengals rallied back from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit to secure a 34-31 win in a wild shootout to clinch the AFC North. They did so behind a huge effort from their dynamic passing duo that saw Chase secure 11 catches for a team-record 266 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bengals win marked a setback for Kansas City's quest for the No. 1 seed in the AFC and sets up a potential playoff rematch between the dueling explosive offenses.
Bengals rally, secure win on wild final sequence
Cincinnati scored 17 straight second-half points to take 31-28 lead on a five-yard touchdown pass from Burrow to Tyler Boyd. The touchdown with 11:44 left was Burrow's fourth of the day and the first that wasn't caught by Chase.
The Chiefs then tied the game at 31-31 with a Harrison Butker field goal with 6:04 remaining, setting Cincinnati up for a wild, game-winning possession. A sack set the Bengals up with third-and-27 at the Kansas City 41-yard line with 3:19 remaining. As he did all game, Chase came up huge, hauling in a 30-yard sideline dime from Burrow over the single coverage of cornerback Charvarius Ward for a first down at the 11-yard line.
266 yards on the DEY for Ja'Marr. That's a team record for receiving yards in a game.
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— z - Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) January 2, 2022
The deep ball to Chase was a formula that worked all day. The rookie sensation also hauled in touchdown passes of 69 and 72 yards, while adding an 18-yard score for good measure. His last catch didn't secure the win, though. Victory only arrived after the Bengals milked the clock and saw a pair of fourth-down gambles nullified by penalties.
Bengals run 11 plays from KC's 11-yard line
Cincinnati ended up running 11 plays from the 11-yard line after Chase's first-down catch and seven after reaching first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Apparently intent on not giving the ball back to Patrick Mahomes, the Bengals called three straight runs up the middle that didn't break the plane, but did run time off the clock. When they reached fourth-and-1, they rolled the dice.
Instead of kicking a go-ahead chip-shot field goal attempt with 58 seconds remaining, the Bengals dialed up a pass play. Burrow found Joe Mixon out of the backfield for what looked like a go-ahead touchdown. But offsetting penalties nullified the play.
They went for it again on fourth down. This time, Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed was flagged for illegal use of hands. Burrow's pass to Tyler Boyd fell incomplete, but no matter. The Chiefs were out of timeouts, and the penalty allowed the Bengals to run the clock down before Evan McPherson kicked the game-winning 20-yard field goal as time expired.
Burrow left the game after his final pass with an apparent knee injury, but told reporters after the game that he was just a little sore. He finished the game completing 30 of 39 pass attempts for 446 yards and four touchdowns without a turnover — a week after torching the Baltimore Ravens for a team record 525 yards with five touchdowns in a runaway win.
Now he holds the Bengals record for most passing yards (4,611) and passing touchdowns (34) in a single season — and a win over the two-time defending AFC champion Chiefs. Kansas City, meanwhile, dropped to 11-5 and ceded control of the AFC's No. 1 seed to the Tennessee Titans with one week left in the regular season. The Chiefs close their season on the road against the Denver Broncos. The 11-5 Titans who hold the tiebreaker of the Chiefs finish with road game against the Houston Texans.