Nail-biter in AFC title game

Nail-biter in AFC title game


The Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals are locked in a battle to reach Super Bowl 57.

Playing in their fifth straight AFC championship game, the Chiefs got off to a quick 6-0 lead after converting on field goals on their first two drives.

On Kansas City’s third possession, quarterback Patrick Mahomes was able to find tight end Travis Kelce for a 14-yard touchdown.

The Bengals managed to tie the game at 13-13 on Joe Burrow’s touchdown pass to Tee Higgins, but the Chiefs answered with a score of their own.

The story of the first half was the performances by both defenses. The Bengals defense forced Kansas City to go 1 of 5 on third downs. Kansas City’s defense sacked quarterback Joe Burrow four times in the first half.

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Keep track of all the news, notes and events surrounding the AFC championship game in USA TODAY Sports’ live blog:  

The Kansas City Chiefs got a do over. 

A referee ran onto the field to stop a third-down play for a replay that did not go in Kansas City’s favor. But it appeared the referee’s whistle could not be heard during the sequence.

On the do-over, Patrick Mahomes was sacked, but Bengals cornerback Eli Apple was called for pass interference down the field, giving the Chiefs a first down. 

Despite the extra opportunities, the Chiefs were unable to convert. 

Mahomes missed on passes to Travis Kelce and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and the Chiefs punted to Cincinnati after the sequence.

The Bengals took advantage of Patrick Mahomes’ turnover, and their aggression paid off. 

Cincinnati went for it on fourth-and-6 at the 41-yard line, and Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow found receiver Ja’Marr Chase for a 35-yard completion down to the 5-yard line. 

Two plays later, the Bengals scored on a touchdown run by Samaje Perine to tie the game with 13:30 left in the game. 

Patrick Mahomes lost possession of the football while trying to make a pass to his right side around midfield near the end of the third quarter. The fumble was recovered by Bengals standout defender Sam Hubbard.

It was a crucial turnover for the Chiefs, who are holding a 20-13 lead in the game. 

The Bengals took over at the 45-yard line on the following possession. 

The Chiefs are thin at wide receiver in the second half. Kansas City announced JuJu Smith-Schuster was questionable to return with a knee injury. The team already ruled out receiver Kadarius Toney because of an ankle injury.

Playing on a tender ankle, Patrick Mahomes maneuvered around in the pocket to create time and threw a strike to wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 19-yard touchdown. 

The touchdown put the Chiefs back in the lead at 20-13. 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Temperature at kickoff was 22 degrees, with a wind-chill factor of 10 degrees. The forecast was for the wind-chill factor to dip to 0 degrees by the end of the game. Presumably, that’s regulation time. If the game goes to OT, surely the wind-chill would get into negative territory. In other words, brrrr.

— Jarrett Bell

On the Bengals’ first possession of the second half, Joe Burrow threw a deep pass to Tee Higgins and the wide receiver high-pointed the football in the end zone for a successful 27-yard touchdown catch to tie the game at 13 apiece. 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd has a left thigh injury. His return is questionable.

Boyd had two catches for 40 yards at the time of his injury. 

— Jarrett Bell

With under three minutes to go in the first half, Joe Burrow was intercepted by Chiefs cornerback Jaylen Watson. Burrow’s pass was intended for wide receiver Tee Higgins, but Watson got a good jump on the football and picked it off. 

On fourth-and-1 with less than four minutes left in the second quarter, Patrick Mahomes had to scramble to create time and threw a 14-yard touchdown to tight end Travis Kelce. 

Kansas City’s touchdown increased its lead to 13-3. 

The Bengals are on the board and cut their deficit in half.

Joe Burrow threw a pretty pass to tight end Hayden Hurst in the end zone, but Chiefs safety Justin Reid broke up what could have been a touchdown.

Instead, Bengals kicker Evan McPherson made a 30-yard field goal with 8:36 left in the second quarter to trim Kansas City’s lead to 6-3.

Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd, who extended the drive with two catches on the drive, appeared to be injured following his second catch. He was checked out on the sidelines before the field goal.

Chiefs receiver Kadarius Toney suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter, and the team announced he is questionable to return. 

Toney suffered the injury after making a 9-yard catch in the first quarter. 

It appeared Toney slipped and fell after making the catch as he tried to get past the first-down marker. 

Toney, a former first-round pick by the Giants who was acquired by the Chiefs this season, is playing in his first career playoff game. He has two targets so far. 

Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker kicked a 24-yard field goal to help Kansas City take a 6-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter.

This was the second field goal of the game for the Chiefs, who have been unable to capitalize with touchdowns offensively.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Well, the Bengals are certainly lucky the Chiefs haven’t capitalized as much as they could.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked three times, and the offense accounted for zero net yards in the first quarter. Kansas City had 109.

The Chiefs nearly took a 10-0 lead as running back Isiah Pacheco got into the end zone, but a holding call by Chiefs offensive lineman Andrew Wylie negated the touchdown.

Mahomes was unable to convert a third-and-goal from 19 yards out, and the Chiefs were lining up for a field goal.

In another sense, there’s still a victory in there for the Bengals. After forcing the Chiefs to settle for two field goals on their first two drives, the Bengals were just one drive away from taking the lead.

Contributing: Jarrett Bell

Chiefs coach Andy Reid may regret throwing the challenge flag on this one.

Kansas City challenged a ruling on the field of an incomplete catch and was denied.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw a nice pass to receiver Kadarius Toney, who was unable to secure the football as he hit the deck following the play.

The football clearly hit the field, and the Chiefs lost a timeout after losing the challenge.

The Chiefs ended their first drive with a 43-yard field goal by Harrison Butker to take a 3-0 lead with 8:54 left in the first quarter.

One of Kansas City’s best defenders exited due to injury on the first drive of the game in the first quarter.

Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed appeared to hit his head after trying to tackle Bengals backup running back Samaje Perine.

Sneed went to the sideline to be evaluated with a head injury. He was ruled out for the rest of the game shortly before halftime.

Luckily for the Chiefs, the Bengals’ first drive ended with quarterback Joe Burrow getting sacked by Chiefs defensive lineman Frank Clark.  

The Eagles defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-7 in the NFC championship game. Philadelphia outperformed San Francisco in all phases of the game. 

The game quickly spiraled out of control for the 49ers when quarterback Brock Purdy suffered an elbow injury in the first quarter. Purdy later returned to the game but couldn’t throw because of his injury. 

Chiefs QB Shane Buechele, DE Joshua Kaindoh, T Darian Kinnard, TE Blake Bell, WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR Justin Watson and DE Malik Herring are inactive Sunday, the team announced.

The Bengals announced that QB Jake Browning, RB Chris Evans, CB Jalen Davis, G Alex Cappa, OT Jonah Williams, DE Jeff Gunter and DT Jay Tufele are inactive. 

The Chiefs quarterback revealed to reporters this week that he spoke to Brady following Kansas City’s win over Jacksonville.

“I talked to Tom (Brady) a little bit. I have a good relationship with him now,” Mahomes said. “He gives me some advice to help me. Why would you not wanna learn from the GOAT? Anytime anybody like that wants to give me advice, I’ll take it in.”

Brady got the better of Mahomes in the 2018 AFC Championship game when he was the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback, and Brady bested Mahomes in Super Bowl 55 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On top of beating the Chiefs three straight times, the Bengals are a perfect 3-0 in AFC championship games. Cincinnati is the only organization that is unbeaten in AFC title games.

Mahomes (ankle) was a full participant in practice all week and is slated to start Sunday. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (back) is listed as questionable but is expected to play, as well as wide receiver Mecole Hardman (pelvis). 

Bengals guard Alex Cappa (ankle) and left tackle Jonah Williams (knee) have both been ruled out for Sunday’s game. 


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