- READ: Battista: Resilient Chiefs reach third Super Bowl in five seasons
- READ: Mahomes-Kelce tandem makes history in victory
- READ: Kelce: 'Burrowhead, my (expletive). It's Mahomes house!'
- READ: Zac Taylor on Ossai penalty: It's not 'about one play'
- READ: 2023 draft order: Bengals pick No. 28 in first round
- READ: 'Unstoppable' Chris Jones leads Chiefs D past Bengals
- Patrick Mahomes paints another masterpiece. An entire week was spent closely monitoring Mahomes' ankle, searching for signs of weakness just days after he battled through a high ankle sprain in a Divisional Round win over Jacksonville. By the time the clock hit triple zeroes, we realized Mahomes' rare skillset includes an ability to play through the pain. Mahomes completed 29 of 43 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns, keeping the Chiefs' offense afloat in a second half in which they ran aground. Mahomes' third-down touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling stood as his best play of the half until the penultimate offensive play for the Chiefs, when a slightly hobbled Mahomes scrambled on third-and-4, turning the corner to pick up the first down before he was shoved late, drawing an unnecessary roughness penalty that gave the Chiefs the yardage necessary to attempt the game-winning field goal. Kansas City only produced 23 points, but the numbers don't lie. Mahomes accounted for 323 of Kansas City's 357 net yards Sunday and made the single play that mattered most. He and the Chiefs are headed back to the Super Bowl with a hard-earned win led by a rare talent who once again proved he's among the very best in the sport.
- Bengals' patchwork offensive line crumbles. Cincinnati was feeling very good about its chances entering the weekend, so much that the city's mayor delivered some bulletin board material with a Friday proclamation that included multiple jabs at a team the Bengals have dominated in the last year. A good portion of their confidence originated in how the Bengals' makeshift offensive line played against the Bills, a team that failed to harass Joe Burrow in their Divisional Round meeting. The same could not be said Sunday, when the Chiefs racked up four sacks early and posted a QB pressure percentage of 50 in the first quarter. Cincinnati adjusted, dedicating additional resources to protecting Burrow and watching Kansas City's pressure rate fall below 25 percent in the final three quarters, but when the game entered its final minutes, the Bengals' absences up front were unavoidable. Burrow wasn't able to get comfortable on a drive in which the Bengals absolutely needed to produce points, and a third-down sack of Burrow ended their hopes. It's a tale that's all too familiar to Bengals fans, who watched the Los Angeles Rams terrorize Burrow in Super Bowl LVI and reacted positively to Cincinnati's offseason investment in the offensive line. Unfortunately, injuries mounted once again and prevented the Bengals from producing enough to win their fourth straight over the Chiefs.
- Chris Jones delivers a signature performance. Jones has compiled a fantastic career in his time in Kansas City and has been paid accordingly, but didn't have a single postseason sack to his name entering Sunday. He made sure to change that fact permanently. Jones proved to be a problem for the Bengals early and often, recording a sack in the first quarter by beating replacement right guard Max Scharping, and recording six QB pressures in four quarters, the most in a playoff game in his career. His greatest moment came in a huge spot: third-and-8 from the Cincinnati 38. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo moved Jones out wide for a one-on-one matchup with right tackle Hakeem Adeniji, and Jones powered through the outside shoulder of Adeniji, taking down Burrow to force a punt. The Chiefs kicked the game-winning field goal on the ensuing possession, sending Jones and Co. back to the Super Bowl. This time around, they can directly credit their star defensive tackle for the victory.
- Cincinnati's repeat bid ends in heartbreaking fashion. Halloween served as a turning point for the Bengals, who lost to the Browns on Monday Night Football in blowout fashion and desperately needed to regroup if they had any hopes of defending their AFC title. They did just that, rattling off 10 straight wins and rediscovering their peak form on both sides of the ball, morphing into an explosive offense and enjoying the contributions of their defense down the stretch. The Bengals were writing a similar story Sunday, erasing a 13-3 deficit to tie the game at 20 early in the fourth. Cincinnati even overcame a questionable officiating decision to force a punt and had a chance to go down the field and win, much like it did in last year's AFC title game. Instead, the offense sputtered, and an unnecessary roughness penalty on Joseph Ossai -- who was frantically pursuing a scrambling Mahomes on third down before shoving him late -- provided the Chiefs with enough field position for Harrison Butker to convert the game-winning 45-yard field goal. A game that seemed destined for overtime ended in a Butker kick and tears for Ossai, who had an excellent game prior to the penalty. Cincinnati was one signature Burrow drive from receiving another chance to win a Lombardi Trophy. Instead, the Bengals will spend it at home, watching their rivals take on the Philadelphia Eagles.
- Chiefs set up a tremendous Super Bowl matchup. The storylines run deep in this matchup. It will be the first Super Bowl with two Black starting quarterbacks -- Mahomes and Jalen Hurts. Travis and Jason Kelce will become the first brothers to face off in the Super Bowl. Andy Reid, longtime former coach of the Eagles who was immediately hired by the Chiefs following his departure from Philadelphia, squares off with his former employer. Those are just three of the many that we'll tackle in the weeks ahead, but the strengths of both of these teams -- and both of these quarterbacks -- make for quite a showdown in the NFL's final game of the 2022 season. We have two weeks until they take the field in Glendale, Arizona, which is just enough time to drill down on the many intriguing threads that will make up the Super Bowl LVII tapestry. Five years after winning a Super Bowl, the Eagles return with an almost completely different squad. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are back in the biggest game for the third time in the last four years. Get ready for a doozy of a Super Bowl.
Next Gen stat of the game: Chris Jones finished with six QB pressures and two sacks on 38 pass rushes, marking the most pressures in a playoff game in his career.
NFL Research: Travis Kelce finished with seven catches for 78 yards and one touchdown Sunday, passing Julian Edelman for the second-most receiving yards in NFL postseason history, trailing only the legendary Jerry Rice.