AFC Championship: Bengals defeat Chiefs, head to first Super Bowl since '88
Kansas City, Mo. — Evan McPherson kicked a 31-yard field goal with 9:22 left in overtime after Joe Burrow kept his cool while leading a furious second-half comeback to get the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl for the first time in 33 years with a 27-24 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game Sunday.
The Bengals erased an 18-point deficit — tying an AFC title game record — to take a late 24-21 lead on McPherson's 52-yarder. But Harrison Butker’s 44-yard kick as time expired in regulation sent it to overtime a week after his 49-yarder on the final play of regulation did the same against Buffalo.
One week after Buffalo’s Josh Allen called tails and it came up heads for the overtime coin toss — giving Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs the ball — Cincinnati backup quarterback Brandon Allen called heads and the coin came up tails. The Chiefs opened overtime again with the ball, but Vonn Bell intercepted Mahomes on the third play, and Burrow and the Bengals took over.
And now they're heading to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1989 after winning their first playoff overtime game.
“Usually when you lose the coin flip to those guys, you’re going home," Burrow said. "Our defense really stepped up and made plays in the second half. And on offense we made plays when we had to. I thought the offensive line played really well all day. We started running the ball there at the end and that’s exciting.
"Big win for us.”
The Bengals (13-7) will play the winner of the NFC championship between San Francisco and the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl in Los Angeles on Feb. 13. Cincinnati lost to the 49ers in both of its previous trips to the Super Bowl.
Mahomes and the Chiefs (14-6) will be left to lament blowing a chance at a third straight Super Bowl appearance. They had a chance at a winning touchdown in the closing seconds of regulation, but sacks by Sam Hubbard on consecutive plays forced Kansas City to settle for the tying field goal.
The Bengals have won six of their last seven games against the Chiefs, including two this season.
The Chiefs got a touchdown on their first three possessions, with Mahomes finding Mecole Hardman for a 3-yard score that made it 21-3 — and had this one looking very much like a rout. Mahomes joined Tom Brady (2014), Joe Flacco (2012) and Aaron Rodgers (2010) as the only players with three games with three or more TD passes in a single postseason.
But Burrow kept the Bengals in it.
He tossed a short pass to Samaje Perine, who avoided a tackle attempt by Charvarius Ward and raced into the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown with 1:05 left in the opening half.
The Chiefs appeared headed for their fourth straight touchdown drive to open the game, especially after Byron Pringle’s 10-yard catch put Kansas City at the 15 with 13 seconds left — setting off chants from the fired-up Arrowhead Stadium crowd of “13 seconds!” who were still reveling in the Chiefs' stunning comeback last week against Buffalo.
A pass interference call on Eli Apple in the end zone put the ball on the 1, but the Chiefs couldn’t get into the end zone on two tries, with Mahomes’ pass to Tyreek Hill losing a yard and ending the half. It ended up costing them.
“I was hoping we could get the ball in the end zone,” coach Andy Reid said. “I probably gave the wrong play, first of all. I could have given them something better than that. I'll take responsibility for that one.”
McPherson’s 31-yarder cut the Bengals’ deficit to 21-13 with 2:58 left in the third quarter.
Cincinnati got the ball back at the Chiefs 27 moments later when B.J. Hill intercepted Mahomes’ short pass intended for Demarcus Robinson. Two plays after Joe Mixon gained 2 yards on first-and-goal from the 5, Ja'Marr Chase went up over Rashad Fenton in the end zone to catch Burrow’s toss for a touchdown. Burrow then found a wide-open Trent Taylor for the 2-point conversion to tie it at 21 with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.
The 18-point comeback by Cincinnati tied Indianapolis (vs. New England in 2006) for the largest in AFC championship history.