By Matt McMullen – Chiefs.com
The Kansas City Chiefs dropped a tough one on Sunday, falling to the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-24, for their third loss on the year. Kansas City fought back from an early 11-point deficit to claim the lead multiple times in the second half, but the Bengals moved ahead midway through the fourth quarter and never looked back.
The turning point of the game took place with just over 14 minutes remaining in regulation. The Chiefs led by four points and were poised to add to that advantage when tight end Travis Kelce caught a 19-yard pass over the middle, but the Bengals jarred the ball free from Kelce’s grasp and pounced on the fumble. Cincinnati then quickly turned the takeaway into points, as quarterback Joe Burrow found tailback Chris Evans for an 8-yard, go-ahead touchdown.
The Chiefs still had an opportunity to answer, however, and looked as if they were going to do so by marching into Bengals’ territory on their ensuing possession, but the drive stalled and kicker Harrison Butker’s 55-yard field goal – which would have tied the game – sailed wide right.
Cincinnati took over on offense with just over three minutes remaining, and while the Chiefs’ defense forced a pair of third downs, the Bengals never relinquished possession of the ball. Specifically, the Bengals elected to throw on 3rd-and-11 with one minute and 59 seconds left – risking an incompletion that would stop the clock – but Burrow found wide receiver Tee Higgins for a 14-yard gain to move the chains and end the contest.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Head Coach Andy Reid. “The Bengals did a nice job. Coming down the stretch, you can’t turn the ball over against a good team, and you surely can’t miss a field goal, but there were a lot of things in-between that we could have done better. We’ll go back, we’ll work on it, and we’ll make sure that we learn from it and try to become a better team.”
The final quarter marked an unfortunate conclusion to what previously had all the makings of another classic Chiefs’ comeback. Kansas City trailed by a score of 14-3 with just under 14 minutes remaining in the second quarter, but the Chiefs answered with a 14-play, 81-yard scoring drive that narrowed the deficit to just four points. The Chiefs converted a fourth-down attempt on the series before quarterback Patrick Mahomes – facing a third-and-goal – found tailback Jerick McKinnon for a 2-yard score.
Cincinnati then appeared ready to respond with a score of its own, as the Bengals marched all the way to the Chiefs’ 4-yard line in the closing minutes of the first half, but defensive end Carlos Dunlap blew up an ill-fated jet sweep attempt on a short fourth down to end an otherwise productive Bengals’ possession without any points to show for it.
Kansas City made sure to carry that momentum into the second half, too, when Mahomes opened the third quarter by engineering a seven-play, 77-yard scoring drive that ended with an 8-yard, go-ahead touchdown run by tailback Isiah Pacheco. The score was part of a strong day for both Pacheco and McKinnon, who combined for 107 yards on the ground.
Pacheco’s touchdown marked Kansas City’s first lead of the game, but it didn’t last long, as Cincinnati added a game-tying field goal on its next series. The Chiefs continued to fight though, and facing a fourth down at the 3-yard line on their next drive, Mahomes scrambled up the middle and extended the ball just beyond the goal line to once again put Kansas City in front.
The Bengals answered with another field goal – narrowing the deficit to four points – but Kansas City looked to be in business yet again when Mahomes found Kelce over the middle for a sizable gain a possession later. Bengals’ linebacker Germaine Pratt instead forced the fumble, and the Chiefs never recovered on the scoreboard.
Mahomes completed 16-of-27 passes for 223 yards and two total touchdowns (1 passing, 1 rushing) in the game, finding wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a team-leading 71 yards in the contest. Valdes-Scantling amassed that total on just two catches, and both – which covered 42 yards and 29 yards, respectively – took place on third down.
Kelce finished the game with four receptions for 56 yards, and despite the fumble, Mahomes shared some words of encouragement for the All-Pro tight end following the game.
“I just told him to keep being himself,” Mahomes said. “They made a good play, but I’m taking Travis fighting for extra yards every single time…We trust in him. He’s a competitor. He’s [one of the] reasons we play in big games like this. He’s going to go down fighting, so we’re going to keep giving him chances to make plays.”
Coach Reid echoed a similar message when asked about the Chiefs’ young defensive backs, who were facing one of the league’s most explosive offensives in Cincinnati on Sunday.
“They’ll be better because of [this game],” Reid said. “They’ll learn from it, and it’s very important that we do that – both as a team and for those young guys.”
In terms of injuries, Reid mentioned that Mahomes hurt his foot near the end of the game, but that it didn’t appear to be anything serious.
The Chiefs will now look to get back on track this upcoming Sunday as they travel to Denver to take on the Broncos.