In two different games of 2021 against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Kansas City Chiefs had an 11-point lead going into halftime – then lost to a game-ending field goal.
So when the two teams met in Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon, it was the Bengals’ turn to take an 11-point lead in the second quarter — and it was the Chiefs’ turn to fight their way back and take an 24-17 to take. lead in the third quarter. After the Bengals narrowed the lead to 24-20, Travis Kelce fumbled the ball in center field, clearing the way for Cincinnati to clinch a 27-24 win.
The Bengals won the opening throw, opting to receive the ball straight out of the gate. They got the ball on the 25 yard line on a touchback.
Cincinnati began to march downfield moving the chains three times with fast passes and short runs. They crossed midfield and continued to lean on running back Semaje Perine. They approached the end zone with two big completions down the middle, taking advantage of light pressure from the Kansas City defensive line. From the four-yard line, quarterback Joe Burrow took a tie in the end zone for a touchdown with an opening drive. The extra point made it 7-0.
From the 26-yard line, the Chiefs went off on a rush and catch by running back Isiah Pacheco; he made a total of 21 yards between plays to get close to midfield. Two plays later, they faced third-and-4; from the lock, wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster won on a whip route to gain 16 yards. Running back, Jerick McKinnon took a handoff in the red zone on the next play.
A good run and an incompletion gave third and third, where Mahomes went to an open Travis Kelce – but defensive tackle DJ Reader brushed the attempt away. A good field goal tightened the lead to 7-3.
A first-down scramble from Burrow put the Bengals in good position to start the drive, moving the chains with a quick pass. Soon after, it appeared that safety Juan Thornhill had intercepted Burrow, but a pass interference call to cornerback Trent McDuffie brought the turnover back. On the next play, defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth was called for roughing the passer. Two good runs then put the Bengals in the red zone as the first quarter ended.
Defensive tackle Chris Jones started the second period by blowing up a run play; linebacker Willie Gay Jr. cleared the game for a five-yard loss. On the third-and-eighth, Burrow found wide receiver Tee Higgins on an oblique route, beating Joshua Williams for a touchdown. A call for unsportsmanlike conduct on Chase followed the score, but it still gave Cincinnati a 14-3 lead.
On the next drive, the Chiefs soon found themselves trailing third after Andrew Wylie surrendered a sack to defensive end Sam Hubbard. A potential conversion was taken away by two in-field ineligible penalty kicks, forcing a punt.
To open their possession, Chase was called for offensive pass interference to clear away a chain-moving reception on second. It set up a third and twelfth place where Frank Clark and George Karlaftis forced a scramble for the sticks under pressure from defensive ends. The Bengals settled for a punt.
Kansas City started their offense with two play-action passes, both gaining over 12 yards. Pacheco set up another series of downs in the next two plays. On the next play, a near-interception fell to the ground after Mahomes forced a pitch. They reached third and fourth, but a long throw to Kelce fell incomplete. In fourth, a fast pass to Smith-Schuster got just enough to keep the drive alive.
A jet sweep to wide receiver Skyy Moore followed a good run by McKinnon to get the Chiefs to the Bengals’ 12-yard line. McKinnon put in another good run, gaining 11 yards to get to Cincinnati’s one-yard line. Two tries didn’t go well, forcing the third and the goal – where Mahomes found McKinnon in the flat for a touchdown. The extra point made it 14-10.
Just before the two-minute caution, Perine had a nine-yard run—one with a stiff arm from safety Justin Reid—his second missed tackle against the run. Chase had a 40-yard completion beating Williams deep and finding space in the red zone. The Chiefs’ defense moved the Bengals into third and first, where they sneak-stuffed Burrow. On fourth and first, Carlos Dunlap holed into the defensive end and made a tackle-for-loss that gave Kansas City the ball.
Two runs put the game into halftime – with the Bengals leading 14-10.
The Chiefs started the ball in the second half, quickly facing third and 7 after a deep incompletion to Valdes-Scantling. Mahomes defeated the blitz by passing back to the veteran receiver, who reeled in the pass for a 42-yard gain. A screen pass to Kelce brought the Chiefs within the Bengals’ 15-yard line on the next play. From there, they trusted Pacheco to take the middle – converting a third down and scoring to take a 17-14 lead.
The Bengals responded by cutting down the middle of the field twice, both times with a throw to wide receiver Tyler Boyd. Crossing the midfield line, the Bengals used the run play to get closer to the red zone – then faced third and third. To convert, a wheel route flipped wide open, but Boyd dropped the touchdown pass. Cincinnati had to settle for a field goal to tie the score at 17-17.
Kansas City kicked off their drive with a 15-yard completion to wide receiver Justin Watson – taking advantage of great field position from a good kickoff. However, they faced third and tenth from the Cincinnati 38 yard line; to convert, Mahomes found Valdes-Scantling in single cover—confident that he would complete the disputed 29-yard catch. Two short gains led to a third and goal, where a pressured Mahomes was forced to throw out. On fourth and goal, Mahomes scrambled down the middle and jumped into hits only to barely cross the goal line – scoring the decisive touchdown. It gave the Chiefs a 24-17 lead.
The Cincinnati offense continued to cut pieces out of the Chiefs’ defense to march down the field, with gains of 21 and 13 yards in two of the first three plays of the drive. Then Burrow took off for a straight 16-yard run to get to the Chiefs’ 32-yard line. Another successful run brought the game into the fourth quarter.
Trying to convert third and one, Burrow went to Higgins for a jump ball over McDuffie – but the rookie didn’t give Higgins enough room to land. A penalty ended the game anyway, giving Burrow another chance – but Gay deflected a pass to force fourth. A successful field goal narrowed the lead to 24-20, still in favor of the Chiefs.
Looking for a two-possession lead, Kansas City got going with a big play to Kelce down the middle – but linebacker Germaine Pratt stripped the ball and forced a very crucial turnover.
The Bengals took control of midfield and got going with two quick passes to Perine – good for 24 yards. They faced third and seventh soon after, where a simple dump to Perine got the job done. A guard call set the Bengals back on the next play, but Cincinnati got it all back with passes – setting up the eight-yard line first and on target. From there, it just took a wide open dump-off to run back Chris Evans, giving the Bengals a 27-24 lead.
With just over eight minutes remaining, Kansas City took over trailing by three points – twice moving the chains through passes to Kelce. They got past center field and used runs from both running backs to get another set of downs. They took third and third soon after, where Mahomes couldn’t find anyone in the field and eventually took a sack. The Chiefs settled for a long field goal attempt, and it sailed wide to the right.
The Bengals had a chance to put the dagger in the coffin with the turnover on downs, earning two first downs on fast passes and taking advantage of bad tackles by the Chiefs. The Kansas City defense did force a third-and-5, but Chase took a fast pass and avoided tackles to get down first. Just before the two-minute caution, defensive end George Karlaftis wrapped Burrow for a sack to force a third and 11.
Outside the break, Burrow remained calm in a pressured pocket and found Higgins in tight cover against Williams, resetting the downs and ending the game. The final standings: Bengals 27, Chiefs 24.
Kicker Harrison Butker converted his first field goal attempt from 26 yards out in the first quarter. Butker made his first attempt to score extra points, then in the third quarter he did well on his second and third attempts to score extra points. On a 55-yard effort in the fourth quarter, Butker pushed the ball to the right.
Punter Tommy Townsend started his first punt 55 yards in the second quarter.
Now the starting punt return, wide receiver Justin Watson Fair caught his first punt in the second quarter.
Kick returner Isiah Pacheco has 5 kickoff returns – the longest going 44 yards early in the third quarter.