Archdeacon: These Bengals are ‘here to stay’

Credit: Jeff Dean

Credit: Jeff Dean

CINCINNATI — One player — and only one player — was able to stop Ja’Marr Chase in his tracks Sunday at Paycor Stadium.

It wasn’t Kansas City cornerback Joshua Williams, who Chase juked, outran and totally abused on a 40-yard catch and run late in the first half.

It wasn’t Trent McDuffie, the Chiefs’ cornerback, who had to have been awed, as was the entire crowd of 66,243, when the Bengals receiver leaped high along the sideline and caught an over-sailing Joe Burrow pass with on hand, as though he were an outfielder snagging a deep blast just before it cleared the wall for a home run.

Although Chase’s highlight reel moment would be dashed when one of his feet landed just over the sideline, he came back and made two more catches on McDuffie in what would be a seven catch, 97-yard day for him.

And it sure wasn’t Kansas City’s safety Justin Reid, who in the days leading up to the game with Cincinnati, publicly dissed Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst and receiver Tee Higgins, although he got their names mixed up.

When his gaffe was pointed out, he instead doubled down, saying:

“Nonetheless, any and everybody still getting’ locked up!”

Chase had responded, via social media, saying Reid should back his boast with some money.

And early in the second quarter, when Higgins ran away from Williams, who had him in coverage, and then bulldozed over Chiefs’ safety Juan Thornhill on his way to the end zone with a 12-yard touchdown catch of a Joe Burrow pass, Chase wasted no time.

He ran up to Reid and pretended to shower him with money. That drew a 15-yard penalty for taunting and some sideline displeasure from Bengals coach Zac Taylor.

But by the end of this much-anticipated game, the Bengals had made their point:

We back up our swagger.

Cincinnati versus Kansas City is quickly turning into one of the NFL’s must-see rivalries. And for the third time this calendar year, they Bengals prevailed against the team many see as the best in the NFL this season.

This time it was Cincinnati 27, Kansas City 24.

Back on Jan. 2, in the second last game of the 2021 regular season, the Bengals topped Kansas City by three points in a victory that sent Cincinnati to the playoffs for the first time in six years.

Then just 28 days later, the Bengals edged the Chiefs in overtime — at Arrowhead Stadium — in the AFC Championship game. That triumph put Cincinnati in the Super Bowl for this first time in 33 years.

This time the game more than lived up to the hype.

As for the one person who was able to chasten Chase — the one player who quite unexpectedly put him in his place — it was his teammate Tee Higgins.

“Tee went off on me today,” Chase said as he stood at his locker afterward. “He never went off on me before so when he did, I was a little struck.

“I was supposed to fall in bounds in the two-minute drill (at the end of the game) and I didn’t. And Tee looked at me and started going off.”

After the Bengals had retaken the lead and got the ball back with 3:19, they simply had to run out the clock. But when Chase caught a pass that converted a third down, he went out of bounds and the clock stopped.

“It was a critical moment,” said Higgins who dresses next to Chase. “With me and him being brothers, I got on him. Somebody had to. I ain’t never really done that to him before and it shocked him. He was like Whoa chill!’

“But I was like, ‘Bro, you gotta stay in bounds! What the (expletive) you doing! We gotta keep the clock running.’

“He knew what I said was true. He understood.”

Chase agreed:

“I need somebody to be on me like that. That’s a good teammate. It means he’s caring and wants me to do the right thing.”

‘Incredible experience’

Chase was back on the field for the first time since Oct. 23 when he suffered an injury to his right hip against New Orleans.

He later described it as a “hairline fracture” and said he also “hyperextended” his right leg.

He missed four games and was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.

In the dressing room beforehand, he said he felt fine physically, but emotionally he struggled:

“I was so excited to come back today, (but) I was really trying to hold all my energy. If I’d been too excited to play, I would have wasted all my energy in the pregame and in the locker room celebrating. But I saved it all for the game.”

It wasn’t easy, especially when the Bengals added some dramatic effect to the pregame introductions and brought him out of the tunnel and onto the field last as the crowd gave him a roaring welcome.

“I’d felt the atmosphere the whole week,” he said. “It felt a lot like a playoff game and when they brought me out last I heard the crowd going crazy. It was just an incredible experience.”

Finding ways to win

The Chiefs came into the game 9-2, winners of their last five games.

And Cincinnati, after an 0-2 start on the season, was looking like a contender again. It was 7-4, and had won five of its last six games.

Both teams are led by dynamic young quarterbacks.

The Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes came in Sunday leading the league in passing and Joe Burrow was third, though he quickly commandeered the marquee in this one,

He ran four yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and then his TD pass to Higgins early in the second period boosted the Bengals to a 14-3 lead.

The Chiefs would battle back and take a 17-14 lead early in the third quarter and extend it to 24-17 on a 3-yard TD run by Mahomes with 3:49 left in the third quarter.

It should never have been that close, Chase said, and he was right.

Just before the half the Bengals were on the Chiefs 6-yard line and didn’t score in three plays.

And midway through the third quarter, receiver Tyler Boyd was all alone heading into the end zone when he uncharacteristically dropped a 22-yard TD toss from Burrow.

But the defense saved the day.

Linebacker Germaine Pratt stripped the ball away from the Chiefs tight end, Travis Kelce, and then recovered fumble with 13:52 left. That set up Burrow’s winning 8-yard TD toss to running back Chris Evans five minutes later.

And then the Bengals young defensive end Joseph Ossai sacked Mahomes as the Chiefs were marching down the field for what seemed might, once again, be some late-game heroics by their quarterback.

Instead, Kansas City missed a long field goal.

Offensively the Bengals were led by running back Samaje Perine, who was filling in for starter Joe Mixon who is recovering from a concussion. Perine had 106 yards on 21 rushing attempts and six catches for 49 yards.

And Burrow was superb, completing 25 of 31 passes for 286 yards and TD passes and running for 46 yards and another score.

The crowd saluted Burrow with MVP chants and Chase echoed that sentiment:

“Hell yeah he’s the MVP! He’s the best quarterback in the league.”

Taylor meanwhile commended the entire team: “These guys are just finding a way to win with any way that the (opposing) team plays now. We know that our team can play that style.

“They just understand what it takes to be successful over the course of the season and not to live in the past with our victory or defeat in the week before.

“I can’t tell you how special that locker room is in that regard of just being able to move on so quickly and focus on the next game and not riding high and not riding a lot of lows.

“Everyone, when we were 0-2, was asking ‘What’s wrong?’

“Nothing’s wrong. It’s the same team we expected to have.”

Chase said he again feels “a championship swagger” with this team and Boyd agreed:

“Absolutely and I’m not just saying that because we beat the Chiefs, but because we play so good on the back end of our schedule. In November and December — those are the most important months to play football.

“We know what caliber team we’ve got going forward. It’s a great win for sure, but it’s more a message to all the other guys who doubted us and think we just had a lucky run last year.

“Naah, we’re here to stay.

“We’re here to keep winning and we’re here to fight for another Super Bowl.”

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