The Kansas City Chiefs fell to the Cincinnati Bengals, 34-31, in a back-and-forth game that came down to the final play on Sunday afternoon.
Tied at 31 points apiece and facing a fourth down just inches from paydirt with less than a minute remaining, the Bengals appeared to come up short as Kansas City recorded a huge defensive stop that would have flipped possession back to the Chiefs. Instead, a defensive penalty negated the play and provided Cincinnati with a first down, allowing the Bengals to drain the remainder of the clock before kicker Evan McPherson connected on a 20-yard, game-winning kick as time expired.
It was a tough ending to a hard-fought game that Kansas City led until early in the fourth quarter, but despite rallying to tie the game late, the Chiefs saw their eight-game winning streak come to an end as McPherson's kick sailed through the uprights.
"Between the big plays and the penalties, that's what got us," said Head Coach Andy Reid. "You learn from it – as coaches and players – that's all you can do. The guys battled and played aggressive football, we just came up short against a good team. We'll go back, we'll study it and we'll try to get better from it."
Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes completed 26-of-35 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns in the game, finding wide receiver Demarcus Robinson for a 29-yard score on Kansas City's second possession. It marked the first of four consecutive touchdown drives for the Chiefs that helped Kansas City build multiple 14-point leads at various points during the first half.
Mahomes connected with tight end Travis Kelce for a 3-yard score on the Chiefs' next possession before tailback Darrel Williams tallied a touchdown on each of Kansas City's next two drives, the latter of which provided the Chiefs with a 14-point advantage late in the second quarter. It was part of a big day for Williams, who recorded 107 yards from scrimmage in addition to his two touchdowns.
That offensive success took place without multiple starters along the offensive line, as left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. sustained a calf strain during pre-game warmups and didn't play in the game. That meant that starting right tackle Lucas Niang moved to the other side while Andrew Wylie took over for him, but Niang suffered a torn patellar tendon early in the first quarter that thrust starting left guard Joe Thuney into meaningful snaps at left tackle for the first time in his career. Nick Allegretti, meanwhile, came off the bench to play left guard.
It was quite a rearrangement, but the group rallied to hold Cincinnati and pass-rusher Trey Hendrickson – who entered the game with 14 sacks on the season – without a sack on the afternoon.
"I give credit to our coaching staff. They do a great job of preparing us each week, and it's really [all about] the 'next man up' mentality," Thuney said. "I just want to do whatever the team needs and wherever they need me, I'll play."
Cincinnati managed to stick around, however, and narrowed the deficit to just 11 points heading into halftime due in part to a career day by rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. The Bengals' young pass-catcher tallied 11 receptions for 266 yards and three touchdowns - two of which took place in the first half as Cincinnati was trying to keep pace – while accounting for more than half of the Bengals' total offensive yardage all by himself.
Bengals' quarterback Joe Burrow found Chase yet again – this time for a 69-yard score – on Cincinnati's opening possession of the third quarter to pull within four points before hitting wide receiver Tyler Boyd for a 5-yard touchdown a bit later that pushed the Bengals in front.
Kansas City managed to tie the game with a field goal on its ensuing possession, but the offense wouldn't see the ball again. Cincinnati bled six minutes of clock on its next series – converting a 3rd-and-27 at one point during the drive – before McPherson hit the game-winner for the Bengals.
It was simply a tough ending to a thrilling game between two of the best teams in the AFC.
"When you're chasing the things that we are, any loss feels like a letdown, but we can't let that affect us moving forward," said safety Tyrann Mathieu. "As badly as it hurts, we have to learn from this one and turn the page. We still have a lot of football [left], and we need to have confidence moving forward."
Now with one game left in the regular season before the playoffs get underway, Kansas City will look to get back in the win column next week as they travel to Denver to take on the Broncos.