National Football League
Chiefs beat Bengals in AFC title game rematch, punch ticket to Super Bowl
National Football League

Chiefs beat Bengals in AFC title game rematch, punch ticket to Super Bowl

Updated Jan. 30, 2023 11:59 a.m. ET

On Jan. 30, 2022, the Chiefs watched the Bengals punch a ticket to the Super Bowl on their field. They fumbled an 18-point lead in regulation, then saw Cincinnati's Evan McPherson drill the game-winning field goal in overtime, stunning them. 

A day short of a year later, again playing at home against the same team with the same stakes, the Chiefs wrote a new narrative. 

Kansas City fended off a Cincinnati rally to win 23-20 Sunday night at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in the rematch of last season's AFC Championship Game with a 43-yard field goal by place kicker Harrison Butker in the final seconds, punching its ticket to Super Bowl LVII in Arizona. The Chiefs will face the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles on Feb. 12 at State Farm Stadium for the Lombardi Trophy (6:30 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App). 

With Patrick Mahomes battling a high-ankle sprain (suffered in last week's divisional-round game against the Jaguars), many NFL observers wondered how the Chiefs would tweak their offense, which has leaned on the quarterback's scrambling ability and playmaking outside of the pocket. But Mahomes still played at a high level Sunday despite being tied primarily to the pocket, showing why he's the MVP frontrunner and arguably the best player in the NFL


Mahomes, visibly in pain at times, completed 67.4% of his passes (29-of-43) for 326 yards and two touchdowns in one of the signature performances of his career. With a short field thanks to a 29-yard punt return by rookie Skyy Moore, Mahomes led the four-play, 26-yard game–winning drive. 

Bengals defensive end Joseph Ossai had the bone-head mistake, with a late shove on a scrambling Mahomes who was already out of bounds for a 15-yard penalty that set up Butker's kick. If not for the foul, Butker's kick would've been 60 yards as opposed to 45. 

Mahomes had an uncharacteristic fumble late in the third quarter — losing grip of the ball on a wind-up to throw, resulting in his first-career postseason lost fumble — that sparked a Bengals 62-yard touchdown drive that tied the game at 20. But with help from the Chiefs defense, it wasn't a death sentence. 

Kansas City All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones, who had arguably the best game of his career (two sacks, five quarterback hits, three tackles for loss), sacked Burrow to end the Bengals' potential game-winning drive with 44 seconds left. 

The Chiefs' pass rush was a handful for the Bengals' banged-up offensive line, which played without three starters (left tackle Jonah Williams, right guard Alex Cappa, right tackle La'el Collins). Burrow was sacked five times overall, including four times in the first half. 

Kansas City jumped out to a 10-point lead by the second quarter, after Mahomes connected with tight end Travis Kelce for a touchdown on fourth-and-1 from the Bengals' 14. On Cincinnati's ensuing possession, cornerback Jaylen Watson picked off a Burrow throw intended for receiver Tee Higgins. But the Bengals cut their deficit to 13-6 with a 90-yard drive for a field goal to end the first half. 

The game would be tied twice in the second half — at 13 and 20 — before Kansas City's game-winning kick. 

The Chiefs, who hosted their fifth straight AFC title game, head to the Super Bowl for the third time in four years. They won the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LIV, beating the 49ers to cap the 2019 season. 

With Burrow at quarterback, the Bengals had won their previous three matchups against the Chiefs (regular season and playoffs). Sunday marked the teams' fourth meeting in 13 months. 

Cincinnati appeared to be overconfident entering Sunday's AFC title game, toeing the line with cockiness. 

Cornerback Mike Hilton had coined the nickname "Burrowhead" for the Chiefs' stadium last week, a nod to Burrow's 3-0 record against Kansas City ahead of the contest. Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval proclaimed that Burrow should take a paternity test to see if he's Mahomes' father. 

No one for the Bengals is joking now. They're not celebrating. 

"I got some wise words for that Cincinnati mayor," Kelce told CBS after the game. "Know your role and shut your mouth, you jabroni! 

"You got to fight for your right to party!"

There's more, too. 

"Burrowhead my ass!" Kelce said in a separate interview. "It's Mahomes' house!"

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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