Chiefs Slip By Bengals To Win AFC Championship

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 29, 2023




KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – JANUARY 29: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs holds up the Lamar Hunt Trophy after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in the AFC Championship Game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on January 29, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Today, fans at Arrowhead Stadium braved frigid temperatures (22 degrees at kickoff) to watch the Kansas City Chiefs battle the Cincinnati Bengals in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game. The Bengals entered this game having beaten Kansas City three straight times in one calendar year. (And quarterback Joe Burrow excels in cold tempratures.) The Chiefs entered the game with uncertainty: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is still recovering from a high ankle sprain suffered last week, and tight end Travis Kelce had back spasms over the weekend. But they overcame those injuries to slip by Cincinnati in a nail-biting slugfest.

First Quarter

Cincinnati went three and out on its opening drive, which stalled when Burrow got sacked by Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark. 

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – JANUARY 29: Frank Clark #55 of the Kansas City Chiefs reacts after a sack against the Cincinnati Bengals during the first quarter in the AFC Championship Game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on January 29, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)

Kansas City took over. Mahomes took the field just 8 days after a high ankle sprain threatened his performance in the divisional round last week. Despite a slight limp, Mahomes performed gamely, picking up 16 yards on back-to-back plays. (Running back Isiah Pacheco took the hand off from Mahomes on the first; Kelce caught a pass from Mahomes on the second.)

Mahomes threw what looked like a touchdown to receiver Kadarius Toney, but the referees signaled an incomplete pass. Kansas City challenged the ruling, but replay revealed that the ball hit the ground as Toney fell. The ruling stood as called. The Chiefs eventually settled for a field goal by kicker Harrison Butker.

So the Bengals started their drive down 3-0. Joe Burrow got sacked by Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay. Then the Bengals got hit with a delay of the game penalty on 3rd down. And DE Chris Jones sacked Burrow to end the drive. It’s his first career postseason sack.

KANSAS CITY, MO – JANUARY 29: Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones (95) sacks Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) during the first half on January 29th, 2023 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

More Field Goals

The Chiefs got the ball back. Pacheco rushed for 16 yards, and Toney picked up nine before getting hurt on the play. The Chiefs advanced to first and goal in the red zone but the Cincinnati defense kept them out of the end zone. But Butler kicked another field goal to give Kansas City a 6-0 lead.

On the Bengals drive, Burrow got sacked again — this time by rookie linebacker George Karlaftis. But he converted a third and 14 when he completed a pass to Boyd, and he later found him again for a gain of 24 yards. Burrow threw to tight end Hayden Hurst in the end Zone, but the KC defense broke it up. Kicker Evan McPherson got the Bengals on the board with a field goal.

Chiefs Find the End Zone

Mahomes jump-started the Chiefs next drive when he hit Marques Valdez-Scantling for 29 yards. Short runs by receivers Jerick McKinnon and Mecole Hardman followed. And on 4th and one the Chiefs went for it Mahomes scrambled and threw to Travis Kelce, who made a stunning end-zone catch for the touchdown.


Cincinnati maintained possession for the remainder of the half. And they caught a break after what could’ve been a disastrous possession. Burrow got intercepted by Juan Thornhill, but a defensive pass interference penalty wiped out the interception. Bengals took advantage of the call, moving down the field in 12 plays for 90 yards. And on 3rd and goal, kicker Evan McPherson drilled a 23-yard field goal.

Kansas City led 13-6 at the half.

Second Half

The Chiefs opened with a quick three-and-out. But the Bengals outplayed them on their ensuing drive. Burrow heaved an end-zone throw; receiver Tee Higgins beat double coverage and leapt into the air for a touchdown catch.

Mahomes got tackled by Hubbard and threw just before he hit the ground. Initially it was ruled a first down. But replay revealed Mahomes’ knee hit the ground before he passed the ball. The call was reversed. But Mahomes bounced back with a throw to Marquez Valdez-scantling, who caught the ball on his back for the touchdown.


The Chiefs didn’t fare as well on their next drive. Instead they hurt themselves with two costly mistakes: a first down completion to Valdez-scantling got wiped out by a taunting penalty against Andrew Wylie. Then Mahomes fumbled a snap that got recovered by Sam Hubbard. 


The Bengals had life — and a chance to tie the game. But the Chiefs defense forced them to fourth down, closing out the third quarter. Unfortunately for them, Cincinnati went for it on 4th and 6. And Burrow threw to a double-covered Ja’maar Chase. His highlight-reel catch made it first and goal at the six-yard line. 

Samaje Perine scored after this huge play by Ja’Maar Chase.

Fourth Quarter

Bengals tied the game at 20. Chiefs’ rookie defensive back Joshua Williams picked off Burrow for his first postseason interception. And the Chiefs offense got 15 yards off a pass interference penalty, creating an automatic first down. Pacheco broke through tackles to pick up a first down, rushing for 16 yards. But an offensive holding call stopped them at Cincinnati’s 41-yard line. Instead of going for it after a penalty, the Chiefs chose to punt.

That gave the ball to the Bengals. But Burrow threw the ball away on 2nd and 7; refs flagged him for intentional grounding. And on 3rd down, Chris Jones sacked Burrow – Jones’ second sack of the night. Jones forced Cincinnati to punt on 4th down.


With just 44 seconds left, the Chiefs were getting the ball back. PUnt returner Skyy Moore returned the ball 29 yards, bringing the Chiefs near midfield. And after nearly three hours of gingerly stepping around the field, Mahomes broke into a run, scampering for five yards. But Bengals defender Joseph Ossai shoved Mahomes to the ground after he was already out of bounds.

The referee threw a penalty flag. Ossai got called for unnecessary roughness (roughing the passer). The penalty, which happened with under 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter, pushed Kansas City into field goal range. And Harrison Butker kicked the game-winning field goal.

Chiefs Win

The Chiefs squeaked by the Bengals, 23-20. Mahomes sounded relieved in his postgame interview, which got interrupted by teammates Orlando Brown and Travis Kelce. Brown demanded that viewers “give Mahomes his respect”. Kelce had a slightly different message, targeting the Cincinnati mayor who called the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium “Burrowhead”:

“I want to thank God; he healed my body this week. Mahomes said after the game. “He gave me the strength to get through this.”

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