For the first time since 1989, the Cincinnati Bengals are headed to the Super Bowl.
And after playing in the Super Bowl the previous two seasons, the Kansas City Chiefs are headed home.
Rookie kicker Evan McPherson made a 31-yard field goal in overtime, capping an 18-point rally by the Bengals en route to a 27-24 upset of the host Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, January 30 (Monday, January 31, Manila time).
Cincinnati, which had the worst record in the NFL two seasons ago, overcame a 21-3 first-half deficit against Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City, holding the high-powered Chiefs to three points after halftime.
Joe Burrow threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns, and McPherson went 4-for-4 on field goals for the fourth-seeded Bengals, who will face the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl in Inglewood, California, on February 13.
“We’ve got a special team and we’ve overcome a lot of deficits this year,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “We always believe in all three of our phases. Everyone stepped up. We’re not done yet.”
Mahomes passed for 275 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions, for Kansas City. The second-seeded Chiefs, who got the ball first in overtime last weekend and drove for the winning touchdown against Buffalo in the divisional playoffs, again won the overtime coin toss Sunday.
However, Mahomes was intercepted on the third play on a deep ball that was broken up by Jessie Bates III and intercepted by Vonn Bell. Burrow and Joe Mixon helped move the ball deep into Kansas City territory, and McPherson made his kick with 9:22 left to stun the home crowd.
“Usually when you lose a coin flip to those guys, you’re going home,” Burrow said. “But our defense really stepped up and made plays in the second half.”
With the game tied 21-21, McPherson snuck a 52-yard field goal inside the left upright with 6:04 to play in the fourth quarter, giving the Bengals their first lead of the game.
That, of course, left more than enough time for Mahomes, who drove the Chiefs inside the Cincinnati 10 with a chance to tie or win.
On the next-to-last play of regulation, Mahomes attempted to buy time deep in the pocket before he was stripped of the ball by Cincinnati’s Sam Hubbard. Kansas City recovered, but it forced Harrison Butker to attempt a 44-yard field goal, which he drilled as time expired to force overtime.
Mahomes threw first-half TD passes to Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce,and Mecole Hardman, helping the hosts build a 21-3 cushion.
“When you’re up 21-3 in a game, you can’t lose it,” Mahomes said, “and I put that on myself.”
The Bengals finally generated momentum in the final 65 seconds of the first half, beginning with Samaje Perine taking a screen pass 41 yards for a touchdown to get the visitors within 21-10. Then after the Chiefs drove to the Cincinnati 1, the Bengals tackled Hill inbounds on the final play of the half, causing the typically crisp Kansas City offense to leave points on the table.
“I was hoping we could get the ball in the end zone,” Reid said. “I probably gave them the wrong play. … I probably could’ve given them something better than that.”
Cincinnati’s defense opened the second half strong, as well. The Bengals forced punts on the first two Chiefs possessions and then got within 21-13 on a 31-yard McPherson field goal.
Two plays later, 303-pound lineman BJ Hill tipped a Mahomes pass and intercepted it, leading to Burrow’s TD strike to Ja’Marr Chase on third-and-goal from the 2. The ensuing two-point conversion pass to a wide-open Trent Taylor tied the score at 21.
Even after Burrow was intercepted by L’Jarius Sneed, Cincinnati’s defense forced another punt, sacking Mahomes on third down for the second consecutive drive.
“We gave up three touchdowns,” Bates said. “We go into halftime, like, ‘Hey, we gotta get it together.’ We know what we’re about. Defense wins championships, and we did that today.” – Rappler.com