When the Cincinnati Bengals tackle the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs within the 2023 AFC Championship Sport, it will likely be the fourth time these sides have confronted off over a 12-month span. Joe Burrow and Zac Taylor have gotten the higher of Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid on the earlier three events, and have extra wins towards the Mahomes period Chiefs than anybody else within the NFL.
Three consecutive wins towards the Kansas Metropolis juggernaut is undoubtedly spectacular and should suggest dominance, however the actuality is that this rising rivalry has been extremely shut. All three Bengals wins have come by a discipline objective, and twice they wanted to rally from a halftime double-digit deficit. Cincinnati’s solely had 4 offensive possessions whereas holding a lead, in comparison with 13 for Kansas Metropolis.
However there are a couple of elements at play that assist clarify why the Bengals have been in a position to come out victorious on every event, and so they all loom giant this Sunday.
Cincinnati has gained the turnover battle
The Bengals have taken distinctive care of the ball, turning it over solely as soon as in three conferences—a Joe Burrow interception in final yr’s AFC Championship Sport—and the protection held the Chiefs to a three-and-out on the following possession. In the meantime, Kansas Metropolis’s three giveaways couldn’t have been extra pricey:
2022 AFC Championship: A 3rd quarter Patrick Mahomes interception leads to Bengals possession at Kansas Metropolis’s 27-yard line. Cincinnati scores a landing and two-point conversion to tie the sport at 21-21.
2022 AFC Championship: One other Mahomes interception in additional time offers Cincinnati the ball at their very own 45-yard line, and finally kick the game-winning discipline objective.
2022 common season: Main 24-20 within the fourth quarter, Travis Kelce loses a fumble and the Bengals achieve possession at their very own 47-yard line. Cincinnati scores the game-winning landing with 8:54 left in regulation.
Turnovers have been a season-long downside for Kansas Metropolis in 2022. The Chiefs had a -3 in turnover differential within the common season, in comparison with the Bengals’ stellar +6. In postseason play, Cincy’s turnover margin is a staggering +9 courting again to final yr.
Cincinnati’s late-game execution has been superior
The fourth quarter (and additional time) has belonged to the Bengals on each side of the ball. They’ve outscored the Chiefs 26-6 within the closing interval, the most important level differential between the 2 groups in any quarter.
2021 common season: The Chiefs’ solely failure to attain a purple zone landing occurred within the fourth quarter whereas trailing 31-28. The Bengals received the ball again tied 31-31 with six minutes left, improbably transformed a 3rd and 27 shot play to Ja’Marr Chase, and received into discipline objective vary. A loopy sequence of occasions that included consecutive Chiefs penalties on 4th and objective on the 1-yard line allowed the Bengals, who had been making an attempt to attain a landing to forestall Mahomes from solely needing a discipline objective to drive additional time, to as an alternative run the clock down and kick the profitable discipline objective at 0:00.
2022 AFC Championship: Just about touched upon within the earlier part with Mahomes’ interceptions, however lest we overlook Kansas Metropolis was 5 yards away from profitable on the finish of regulation. The Bengals protection sacked Mahomes twice, inflicting a fumble on the second sack, and the Chiefs needed to accept additional time.
2022 common season: Along with the aforementioned Kelce fumble, Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker missed a game-tying discipline objective, giving Cincinnati the ball again with 3:19 left. After Kansas Metropolis exhausted its timeouts, Joe Burrow transformed a 3rd and 5 move to Ja’Marr Chase, then on the opposite facet of the two-minute warning made a 3rd and 11 throw to Tee Higgins to seal the deal.
Kansas Metropolis’s protection has been no match for the Bengals offense
If there’s any indication of 1 unit dominating the opposition, it’s the Bengals offense towards the Chiefs protection. Cincinnati has averaged 421 yards, scoring on 17 of their 27 possessions for a median of three.26 factors per drive. In case you take out their end-of-game kneeldown drive on the finish of this yr’s common season win they’re scoring at a staggering 65.3% clip. They’ve additionally transformed 17 of 33 third-down makes an attempt and have had an equal or greater Anticipated Factors Added (EPA) per play than Kansas Metropolis’s offense in every sport.
Joe Burrow has accomplished 78 of 108 passes (72.2%) for 982 yards, 8 touchdowns (plus 1 dashing), and simply 1 interception. Star receiver Ja’Marr Chase has a mixed 24 catches for 417 yards and 4 touchdowns, together with an obscene 11/266/3 statline within the 2021 common season encounter. Operating backs Semaje Perine and Joe Mixon have had 100+ scrimmage yard performances, and most significantly the offensive line has solely allowed two sacks and 7 QB hits within the final two video games.
Even when Mahomes was wholesome, the prevailing query forward of this Sunday’s matchup needs to be whether or not the Chiefs protection can successfully decelerate Joe Burrow and firm, as a result of up up to now they’ve confirmed incapable of doing so.
The damage to Mahomes’ ankle will virtually actually influence this yr’s AFC title, however up up to now it’s clear that Cincinnati and Kansas Metropolis are two well-matched groups with little or no to separate them. Thus far, that “little or no” has all been in Cincinnati’s favor. If historical past is a information, Mahomes’ ankle be damned, we’re in for an additional dramatic ending at