The Bengals win the AFC title, securing the 3rd Super Bowl bid

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Break out the victory cigars. The Cincinnati Bengals are on their way to the Super Bowl.

For the first time in decades, the Bengals are AFC champions. Cincinnati defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in overtime Sunday to win its first conference championship since 1989. The Bengals must face the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl LVI.

Cincinnati rookie kicker Evan McPherson hit a 31-yard field goal in overtime to end a furious Bengals rally. The winning drive was set up after Cincinnati safety Jessie Bates deflected a deep pass from Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes who was intercepted by safety Vonn Bell.

Plumes of victory smoke and plentiful champagne were sprayed inside the visitors’ locker room at Arrowhead Stadium. Cincinnati had plenty to celebrate.

“I think if you would have told me to get into the league when I was drafted that we would be here this year, it would obviously be a shock,” Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said after the game. “But like I said before, no, I’m not surprised.”

Burrow became the first No. 1 overall draft pick to lead a team to the Super Bowl in just its second year. I finished 23-of-38 for 250 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also had some crucial battles for first downs in a performance in the second half to remember.

Just need to kick a field goal to win – after Kansas City won the overtime throw, took possession and was stopped – the Bengals mixed the pass with the race, getting the first downs in front of an astonished Kansas City crowd, which eventually gave way to McPherson 5:24 in overtime. The winning kick was his fourth field goal of the match.

Cincinnati’s comeback is tied for the biggest ever in a title game during the Super Bowl era. The 2006 Indianapolis Colts also rallied from 18 and down to win the AFC title against the New England Patriots.

Cincinnati challenged the odds and drove out of the way for the second week in a row. After toppling the top-seeded Tennessee Titans in the division round, Cincinnati was a seven-point underdog against Kansas City, making its fourth straight appearance in the AFC title game.

But the Bengals’ internal belief that they could beat any team in the NFL was justified after Sunday’s victory at Arrowhead Stadium.

“When our back is against the wall, it’s when we fight the best,” Bell said. “Guys bent up. Made big stops, big games. [We] has a robust group, and we really showed that. “

Cincinnati were 21-3 behind at some point in the second quarter and looked to be out of the game.

But the Bengals slowly began to slip on the deficit, starting with a 41-yard touchdown reception by Samaje Perine from a screen play. Cincinnati defensive tackle BJ Hill picked Mahomes midway through the third quarter, a turnover that triggered a 2-yard touchdown pass from Burrow to wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase just before the end of the quarter.

The way the game developed was very similar to Cincinnati’s Week 17 victory over Kansas City as the Bengals gathered from a 14-point deficit to win 34-31 and win the AFC North title and their first playoff spot since 2015 .

The Bengals had to fight back from yet another big deficit on Sunday, and cornerback Eli Apple made a critical tackle in open field on Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill a yard away from the goal line in the final game of the first half to keep the Chiefs’ lead 11 o’clock.

From there, the Bengals continued to roll.

Cincinnati ended the infamous “Curse of Bo Jackson” as it beat the Las Vegas Raiders at home in the wildcard game, its first playoff win in 31 seasons.

The franchise’s victory over Tennessee, the team’s first road playoff victory, created the AFC title fight against Kansas City, the Super Bowl LIFE champion vying for his third conference title in a row. The Bengals and Burrow had other plans. Cincinnati, who last went to the Super Bowl in 1989, won the franchise’s third AFC championship in as many attempts.

According to Elias Sports Bureau study, the Bengals are the third team to go from the worst to the first in three seasons. The 1981 49ers were one of those teams. They went on to beat the Bengals in Super Bowl XVI.

Before Super Bowl LIFE in February 2020, Burrow and Bengals teammate Sam Hubbard spent some time together in Miami. Hubbard told his former Ohio State teammate and friend that the Bengals had to take him with the No. 1 overall pick.

At that point, the Bengals came after a season with two wins with no playoff hopes in sight.

“I’ve been pretty miserable, along with a lot of my teammates, the last couple of years, and lost so many games,” Hubbard said. “I said to Joe, ‘We need you. You’re the guy to turn this around. I know.’

Burrow embraced it, Hubbard said. For the past three years, Burrow has had a Heisman Trophy and a national championship trophy in college football.

On Sunday, in front of a horde of Bengali fans still sitting in the red squares at Arrowhead Stadium, Burrow lifted yet another as AFC champion.

“You can not even write stories like this,” Hubbard said. “It is fantastic.”

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