The Kansas City Chiefs rallied back from a 10-point deficit to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, 25-17, and clinch an eighth consecutive AFC West title on Sunday night.
Trailing by 10 points midway through the second quarter, Kansas City proceeded to rattle off 18 unanswered points throughout the remainder of the game to defeat a scrappy Bengals' squad that was fighting to keep its postseason hopes alive. In fact, after Cincinnati scored on each of its first three possessions – tallying 17 points – Kansas City held the Bengals off the scoreboard on each of their next seven drives. It was a true three-phase effort, too, as Chiefs' kicker Harrison Butker was responsible for the only points by either team for more than two quarters of action with a career-most six field goals.
"Everybody contributed to this thing, which I think was great," said Head Coach Andy Reid. "As you saw, nobody gave up hope. It wasn't the smoothest early on, but the guys battled through, and they supported each other. That was a positive."
Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes completed 21-of-29 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown in the game, finding tailback Isiah Pacheco for an 8-yard score late in the first quarter that briefly provided Kansas City with the lead. It was part of a big day for Pacheco, who recorded a career-best 130 rushing yards to go along with his touchdown.
Cincinnati then proceeded to answer with 14 unanswered points, but despite a double-digit deficit and with plenty on the line, the Chiefs found a way to put together one of their most complete second-half performances of the season.
"I thought we did a lot of great things today. Offensively, I thought we did a good job of just letting the game come to us – not trying to force it and not trying to do too much," Mahomes said. "We have to continue to get better in the red zone, but Harrison Butker saved us. He knocked through six field goals, and when you have a defense like that shutting the door, that's how you have to win football games."
Indeed, despite not finding the end zone following Pacheco's touchdown early in the game, the Chiefs still managed to come away with points on six of their other eight possessions. That stretch included four field goals by Butker of 40+ yards, and one kick that covered 54 yards.
"Going into any game I say, you know, there is going to be 10 possessions, and there is going to be an extra point or a field goal on every possession," Butker said. "I get my mind ready for a lot of kicks, and whether you get that many kicks or not, you have to stay ready and locked in."
Butker's efforts helped the Chiefs chip away at the Bengals' advantage while Kansas City's defense bounced back from its slow start to compile a dominant performance throughout the second half. Cincinnati went "three-and-out" on three of its final seven possessions after beginning the game with three-straight scoring drives, but perhaps the crux of the game took place early in the second half.
The Bengals, who were driving after a quick "three-and-out" by Kansas City, marched all the way to the Chiefs' 6-yard line and looked primed to add to their four-point advantage. A touchdown on that series would mark Cincinnati's largest lead of the game, but facing a 4th-and-1, linebacker Willie Gay shot through the line and tackled running back Joe Mixon behind the line of scrimmage to flip possession back to Kansas City. The play meant that Cincinnati had nothing to show for an 11-play, 74-yard series, and as it turned out, the Bengals never entered the red zone again.
The victory locked up an eighth-straight AFC West title for the Chiefs, marking the second-longest streak of division championships for any team since 1970. Only the New England Patriots, who recorded 11 consecutive AFC East championships from 2009-19, compiled a longer streak.
"It's definitely special, it always is though," Mahomes said. "It's cool to win the AFC West, but obviously, dealing with some adverse situations over these last few weeks, and for our guys to respond against a good football team and to find a way to win even when the game wasn't going our way at the beginning was special. I told the guys to celebrate it and enjoy it, but I mean our goal is obviously to continue to win, so we have to continue to build off of this momentum and get ready for the playoffs."
The Chiefs will close out the regular season this upcoming Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers before getting ready for another playoff run.