Harrison Butker was a career-best 6-for-6 on field goal attempts, Kansas City held the Bengals scoreless over their final seven possessions, and the Chiefs rallied to beat Cincinnati 25-17 on Sunday to clinch their eighth straight AFC West title.
Patrick Mahomes had 245 yards passing and a touchdown for Kansas City (10-6), which also secured at least the No. 3 seed and one home playoff game. Isiah Pacheco ran 18 times for 130 yards while Rashee Rice had five catches for 127 yards.
The Bengals (8-8), fighting for their own playoff lives, led by 10 early but found themselves trailing 25-17 when Butker hit the last of his field goals — a 46-yarder through blustery wind — with 2:59 remaining in the game.
With one last chance, Jake Browning hit Tyler Boyd to convert a long fourth down and get into Kansas City territory, but back-to-back sacks by George Karlaftis and Chris Jones gave the Chiefs eight on the day and ended the Bengals’ comeback hopes.
Browning finished with 197 yards passing and a touchdown. Joe Mixon ran for 65 yards and had the TD reception.
Butker converted from 54, 43, 27, 24, 48 and 46 yards, accounting for the game’s final 18 points.
The Bengals and Chiefs are accustomed to playing high-stakes games when the weather turns frigid, meeting for down-to-the-wire nail-biters in each of the past two AFC championship games. And they are usually accompanied by plenty of trash talk, be it from elected officials or — in the case this past week — players such as the Bengals’ Ja’Marr Chase.
The animosity usually spills onto the field, too. Midway through the second quarter, Chase and Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed got into a heated argument, and eventually a team-wide scrum resulted in offsetting personal fouls.
The Bengals jumped ahead 10-7 when an 8 1/2-minute drive resulted in a field goal and a 6 1/2-minute march ended in Mixon’s touchdown catch. Cincinnati then got the ball back when Trey Hendrickson ran right around rookie right tackle Wanya Morris, stripped Mahomes from behind and Sam Hubbard was there to pounce on the loose ball.
Pass interference on Sneed in the end zone set up Browning’s 1-yard TD run.
Butker’s first field goal got the Chiefs within 17-10, and they had a chance to take the lead when Mahomes saw Marquez Valdes-Scantling wide open on their next possession. But yet another dropped pass — the NFL-leading 40th by Kansas City this season — forced the Chiefs to settle for a field goal to trail 17-13 at the break.
As the Chiefs’ defense stiffened in the second half, their offense began showing signs of life.
They stuffed the Bengals on fourth-and-1 at the Kansas City 6, then drove 82 yards for Butker’s third field goal. And after the Bengals had to punt, Mahomes hit Rashee Rice for 67 yards to set up Butker’s chip shot and give the Chiefs the lead for good.
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Reporting by The Associated Press.
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