CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor said he isn’t concerned about how difficult it might be to beat a team like Kansas City for a fourth time in a row.
The Bengals beat the Chiefs in Week 13 after sweeping them in two meetings last season, including in the AFC title game. Now they are set for a conference championship rematch Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, one win away from a return to the Super Bowl in back-to-back seasons.
Kansas City is hosting its fifth straight AFC Championship. The Chiefs lost in the 2018 and 2021 seasons but went to two straight Super Bowls the two years between.
“We’ve got to beat them one time in a row,” Taylor said when asked about the challenges of beating the Chiefs a fourth time. “Obviously there’s more familiarity personnel-wise amongst both teams. We understand the environment we’re walking into. That doesn’t hurt, but it feels like a long time ago we played them. … Teams continue to evolve and different strengths pop up, different weaknesses pop up and so you’ve got to do the whole game planning thing all over again and get your guys ready to go into a tough environment against a great team.”
Taylor also isn’t going to assume the Bengals have any advantage because of Patrick Mahomes’ ankle injury suffered in the Chiefs’ divisional round win over Jacksonville on Saturday.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters Monday that Mahomes is doing OK and will play Sunday. Reid thinks Mahomes’ right high-ankle sprain “isn’t quite as bad” as the one the quarterback sustained on opening day against the Jaguars in 2019. Mahomes played the following week, throwing four touchdown passes in a win over the Raiders.
Mahomes’ mobility could be a concern, but it didn’t prevent him from making plays Saturday.
“It (mobility) is a big part of his game, but I also saw it show up in the second half of last game against Jacksonville,” Taylor said. “He’s a great competitor. He’s tough as nails. So ... you don’t also want to assume he’s not gonna move around when I just watched him move around. ... He can throw from all arm angles, make plays and plays can break down and he’s getting on the same page with his guys and make plays and so you have to go into it with the mindset that he’s gonna be the same player he always has been.”
The Bengals’ injury issues aren’t as concerning as they initially might have been when they went into the divisional round win over Buffalo down three starting offensive linemen. They still rolled to a 27-10 win with Joe Burrow taking just one sack and the running game amassing 172 yards. Taylor said both Alex Cappa (ankle) and Jonah Williams (knee) are improving but their availability for this week remains uncertain.
Cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt said the Chiefs’ offense will still be the same even if Mahomes is banged up and not at 100 percent.
“They still will be the same offense most definitely with their receivers on the outside,” Taylor-Britt said. “He plays a big part in that just by extending plays, so it’ll be a little change in that most definitely. But we still have to prepare like any other.”
The Bengals have beaten Mahomes in three close games over the past 13 months, all by three points.
Familiarity on both sides could play a factor, but where Cincinnati might have struggled at times last year in the AFC Championship, Taylor thinks the team will be even better prepared this game because of the experience last year.
“It does benefit you because it’s not kind of ‘Oh my God, we’re in the AFC Championship game,’” Taylor said. “It’s more, ‘We’re defending AFC champs, this is where we expected to be.’ We just we know all that it entails and our guys are excited for the opportunity, and they’ve worked really hard to put themselves in this position. We’re certainly not done yet. There’s a lot more work to do.”
Cincinnati not only is looking for a fourth straight win over the Chiefs but an 11th consecutive victory this season. Taylor said that streak was no small feat, but the team hasn’t thought about it as sustaining success but rather just “how do we win the next game?” And that remains the approach.
“We’ve got to win 11 in a row,” Taylor said. “Looking back, if we had won any fewer than that, who knows where we would be.”
Bengals at Chiefs, 6:30 p.m., Ch. 7, 12; 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7