The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 25-17 on Sunday to clinch their 8th consecutive AFC West division title. While the banged-up Bengals put up a fight, the Chiefs took control in the second half behind the leg of kicker Harrison Butker, who nailed 6 field goals on the day.
Back-and-Forth First Half Sets Stage for Decisive Second Half
The Chiefs struck first with a field goal on their opening drive, but the Bengals responded with a touchdown early in the second quarter to take a 7-3 lead. Kansas City answered right back with another Butker field goal to make it 7-6. Cincinnati extended their lead with a 52-yard field goal before Butker hit his third FG of the half to make it 10-9 Bengals at the break.
It was a competitive first half filled with solid defense and key stops on third downs. Both offenses moved the ball at times but struggled to finish drives. Meanwhile, both Butker and Bengals K Evan McPherson were perfect on their kicks. Still, the game was very much up for grabs heading into the second half.
Chiefs Lean on Butker’s Leg to Pull Away in Second Half
The Chiefs received the second half kickoff but were forced to settle for another Butker field goal to tie the game 10-10. After trading punts, Kansas City put together another drive into Cincinnati territory. Instead of going for it on 4th down, Andy Reid opted to let Butker kick his 5th field goal to give the Chiefs their first lead at 13-10.
After a Bengals three-and-out, Kansas City mounted a clock-killing drive that took over 7 minutes off the game clock. Butker capped it with his 6th field goal, this time from 42 yards out. Now leading 16-10, the Chiefs’ defense clamped down and forced another three-and-out. Kansas City then sealed the win with a Travis Kelce touchdown reception to make it 23-10 with just over 3 minutes remaining. Butker tacked on two more points with an extra point for the final margin of 25-17.
Butker’s accuracy and consistency proved to be the difference, as the Chiefs scored 16 second half points on his leg alone. Kansas City’s defense also stepped up in the final two quarters, stymying Burrow and the Bengals offense. The Chiefs ran the ball effectively late and did not turn it over, while Cincinnati had no answers in the game’s decisive moments.
Banged Up Bengals Put Up a Fight but Fall Short
Already missing some key players in the secondary, the Bengals lost standout receiver Tee Higgins to a hamstring injury in the first half. Ja’Marr Chase also battled hip soreness all game after barely practicing during the week. Still, the Bengals battled and had opportunities to keep it close. But critical mistakes and an inability to stop the Chiefs in the red zone ultimatley doomed Cincinnati.
Joe Burrow finished with 230 yards passing and a late touchdown to Travis Boyd. Joe Mixon managed just 46 yards on the ground as the Bengals struggled to run against the Chiefs’ front seven. Kansas City also prevented Cincinnati’s short passing game from finding a rhythm. In the end, the mounting injuries and tough matchup with the Chiefs proved too much for the Bengals to overcome.
What This Means Moving Forward
With the win, the Chiefs maintain control of the AFC West at 13-3. They still have an outside shot at the #1 seed but need some help next week. Either way, Kansas City ensured it will host at least one home playoff game.
For the 11-5 Bengals, the loss eliminated them from AFC North title contention. However, Cincinnati maintains the 6th playoff seed as the top Wild Card team coming into Week 18. The Bengals will likely rest starters next week before gearing up for Wild Card weekend. They could face the Bills, Ravens or Chargers in the first round.
While both teams are playoff bound, Sunday’s result gives Kansas City a potential tiebreaker edge and homefield advantage over Cincinnati if they meet again in January. The Chiefs continue to have the Bengals’ number with the win. But if Burrow and company can get healthy, they remain a dangerous foe for the AFC’s elite teams. An exciting playoff rematch may still await in the coming weeks.
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