Worst to first: Bengals clinch AFC North title with wild, last-second win over Chiefs

Back in Week 12, after the Cincinnati Bengals won by 31 points, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor ended his Sunday night by watching football in his backyard with the rest of his family.

As the Taylor family shared a pepperoni pizza and started a fire, Zac’s wife, Sarah, asked him why he wasn’t more excited. Zac seemed more relaxed than she had expected after the team’s biggest win.

Zac explained to Sarah that he wasn’t a coach in the NFL to celebrate a November win. He assured Sarah that he would show more excitement if he wins something of genuine significance. On Sunday, the Bengals achieved the moment Taylor had been waiting for: the game that would change the course of the franchise. The Bengals beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 34-31, to clinch a playoff berth, and the win carries even more meaning than that.

It happened because Taylor made the most aggressive and most important decision of his coaching career. The Bengals were on fourth-and-1 at the 1-yard line with less than one minute left. Taylor chose to do it.

The play was completed with offsetting penalties. Taylor made another attempt at the Bengals fourth-and-1 from their 1-yard line. L’Jarius Sneed, Chiefs’ defensive back, committed a hands-to-the face penalty that gave the Bengals an immediate first down.

As the clock ran out, rookie kicker Evan McPherson made the game-winning 20-yard field goal.

The Bengals are AFC North champions and Super Bowl contenders. Taylor reached that point in three years. It took Joe Burrow only two seasons to become a quarterback good enough to win the Super Bowl.

The Bengals used 2021 free agency to remake a defense that got the stops that mattered against the most explosive offense in the NFL. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs to consecutive AFC Championships. However, the Bengals were better on Sunday.

This is the same Bengals organization that won six combined games in 2019 and 2020. The Bengals have proven they are capable of beating anyone and have shown that they can win the AFC.

No matter how long Burrow plays for the Bengals, there will never be another season like this one. It will not be the same year again where a team considered too young to participate took over the AFC and made one the most remarkable runs to the playoffs ever in franchise history.

The Bengals won the fifth AFC North title, which was their first in franchise history. Burrow played like a quarterback that’s going to take the Bengals to greater heights.

Cincinnati trailed by 14 points on three different occasions on Sunday. Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, wide receivers, brought the Bengals back into this game every time. In the first half, Burrow hit Chase for a 72-yard touchdown where Chase ran around six Chiefs defenders to reach the end zone.

Chase finished the game with a franchise record in single-game receiving yards (266), which also represented an all-time high for any NFL rookie. The effort included a miracle 30-yard catch on third-and-27 with 3: 19 remaining. It was the best ever game Burrow and Chase had played together.

On the first possession of the second half, Burrow found Chase wide open down the left sideline for a 69-yard touchdown. Chase had the most successful game of his NFL career. Burrow recorded a touchdown of 62 yards.

Burrow, who set the franchise single-season record for passing yards and touchdown passes, kept the offense afloat in a matchup where the Bengals struggled to run the ball. In addition to the touchdown throws to Chase, he found wide receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd down the field for explosive plays as the Bengals made multiple 14-point comebacks.

With six minutes left, the Bengals got the ball back in a tie game. Burrow led the Bengals downfield with two first down throws for Chase. This brought the game to the two minute warning. McPherson won the game after McPherson’s 4th and 1 plays.

In a milestone day for the Bengals, Cincinnati wrapped up the AFC North title. The Bengals were the champions one year after finishing last in their division.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *