Burrow keeps focus on Chiefs’ defense

CINCINNATI – Joe Burrow said it’s fun to watch Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but going up against the “best right now” doesn’t change the way he approaches Sunday’s matchup.

The Cincinnati Bengals are playing their best football right now, going 3-0 in November, and Burrow isn’t worried about having to keep up with the league’s top offense.

Cincinnati (7-4), which has won seven of its last nine games, hosts Kansas City (9-2) at Paycor Stadium. The Bengals beat the Chiefs in Week 17 of the 2021 season and in the AFC championship game four weeks later.

“We’re playing the defense that they have,” Burrow said. “They have a really good defense. Coaches think about the game as a whole, how you call plays in certain situations based off what kind of offense they have. As an offense and as a quarterback, that’s not really something I think about.”

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said with how his defense is playing and how the team has been finding different ways to win games, he doesn’t necessarily have to factor in how high-powered the opposing offense is when it comes to being aggressive in certain situations or not.

Confidence in his own team weighs into decisions like whether to go for it on fourth down, but it also depends on the situation, score and the flow of the game.

Burrow also thrives in pressure situations, so if Kansas City happens to have a lead, the Bengals know they still have a chance to come back. He’s led six game-winning drives over the past two seasons and another two in the 2021 playoffs, including both matchups with the Chiefs. In the AFC North-clinching regular-season game, Cincinnati trailed 21-7 in the second quarter. The Bengals were down 21-3 in the second quarter of the AFC Championship.

“It’s just kinda how we’re built,” Burrow said. “We throw it really well, offensive line protects. When we’re down like that, we don’t really change the way we play. That’s kinda the way we play throughout the whole game. Our defense always settles in, no matter how the game starts. They always end up making plays and get us the ball when we need it. And we got veteran guys, mature guys that understand that we’re never out of it no matter what the score is.”

Burrow credited the Chiefs’ defense as “sound” and said defensive tackle Chris Jones in particular poses a lot of problems. Kansas City ranks among the top half of the league in scoring defense, net defense and rushing yards allowed, surrendering 22.1 points per game (16th fewest), 335.1 total yards per game (14th fewest) and 102.0 rushing yards per game (fifth fewest).

Jones has 10 sacks this season and had two sacks against the Bengals in Week 17 last season.

“He’s the best interior pass rusher in the league, I think, outside of Aaron Donald,” Burrow said. “He just creates so many problems and mismatches for you. You always gotta be alert of where he’s at because he can wreck the game. It feels like we’re talking about the same thing every week. … Always gotta be aware of him, but I’m confident in the ability of our guys inside to give me enough time to make the plays.”

The Chiefs already have created some bulletin board material for the Bengals. Safety Justin Reid, a fifth-year player in his first season with Kansas City, stirred things up when he attempted to badmouth Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst but mixed his name up with wide receiver Tee Higgins.

Reid was asked in a video clip shared by FOX4 of Kansas City’s P.J. Green on Wednesday what impact he would have had last year when the Chiefs played the Bengals, and he said he could have helped limit explosive plays.

“They have No. 88 Higbee,” Reid said in the interview. “No, it’s not Higbee, he’s with the Rams. … What’s his name? Higgins. It is Higgins. They are going to have him back, he’s a very talented receiver, more of a finesse type of guy, not the best blocker. I’m going to lock him down, straight up.”

The Higbee he was mentioning was Rams tight end Tyler Higbee, whom Reid faced last week. Reid clarified his mistake on Twitter later: “I meant Hayden Hurst* for the man matchups. Nonetheless, any and everybody still getting locked up.”

Ja’Marr Chase, who is expecting to play Sunday after missing four games with a fractured hip, commented on Twitter, saying, “Let’s put some money on it big time,” and Reid responded by telling Chase he was welcome for the “extra motivation.”

Higgins told local reporters Thursday he would not be discussing those comments. Hurst responded to the trash talk, though, telling a group of media members, “I feel like I’m the last person you would want to talk (expletive) about ‘cause I have a long memory.”

Burrow, speaking before the trash talk was made public, said he just looks forward to a chance to play another great opponent.

“They’re one of the best teams in the league: great quarterback, great defense, playmakers all over the field,” Burrow said. “We know that we’re going to have to play them in the playoffs if we want to get to where we want go. So, this is a big game for us, and obviously would love to win it. We’ll take it one day at a time, have good practices and go out there on Sunday and put our best foot forward.”

SUNDAY’S GAME

Chiefs at Bengals, 4:25 p.m., Ch. 7, 12; 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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