Bengals win AFC North, playoff bound for first time since 2015

Cincinnati tops Kansas City 34-31 at Paul Brown Stadium

Credit: Jeff Dean

Credit: Jeff Dean

CINCINNATI – Ja’Marr Chase caught three touchdown passes, Joe Burrow grabbed two franchise single-season passing records and the Cincinnati Bengals won a shootout with the Kansas City Chiefs to clinch the AFC North title.

The Bengals trailed most of the game, but took their first lead in the fourth quarter and never again fell behind in a 34-31 win Sunday in front of 64,505 fans at Paul Brown Stadium. Evan McPherson made a 20-yard field goal at the gun to win it, and Cincinnati (10-6) collected its 10th division title and first since 2015, which also was the team’s last playoff season.

Chase’s 69-yard touchdown reception on the third play of the second half cut an 11-point deficit down to four, and after two straight Kansas City punts, the Bengals finally pulled ahead on Tyler Boyd’s 5-yard touchdown reception with 11:44 left.

The Chiefs tied the game at 31 on Harrison Butker’s 34-yard field goal with 6:01 left, but Chase’s 30-yard reception on third-and-27 with 3:14 on the clock moved the Bengals into the red zone to set up the winning field goal. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes had led his team to four straight touchdown drives in the first half to build a lead, and the Chiefs never reached the end zone again. Butker’s field goal accounted for their only points of the second half.

The Bengals were helped by an illegal use of hands penalty on the defense on a fourth-down incompletion from the 1-yard line with 50 seconds left. They were able to run down the clock with Brandon Allen kneeling before McPherson stepped in with two seconds left.

Burrow completed 30 of 39 passes for 446 yards to push his season total to 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns, besting the team’s previous records of 4,293 yards and 33 touchdowns set by Andy Dalton in 2013. Chase finished with an NFL rookie record of 266 yards and three touchdowns on 11 catches and is the first rookie to record multiple 200-yard receiving games in the same season. He also topped Chad Johnson’s team record of 260 receiving yards in a game.

Mahomes finished with 259 yards and two touchdowns on 26-for-35 passing, most of that coming in the first half.

Cincinnati got off to a slow start, trailing 14-0 in the first quarter. However, Chase played a big part in the comeback, as the Bengals twice cut a 14-point deficit to a touchdown before going into halftime trailing 28-17. Chase outran a host of Kansas City defenders to get the Bengals on the board with a 72-yard touchdown reception late in the first quarter, but the Chiefs responded with a big play of their own the next drive and were able to regain a two-touchdown lead.

On the next drive, Burrow found Chase in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown, which Chase caught one-handed to make it a 21-14 game with 7:42 left in the second quarter. Again, the Chiefs responded to extend the gap again on Darrel Williams’ second touchdown run just before the two-minute warning.

McPherson made his 15th field goal of 40 yards or more with 41 seconds left to make it an 11-point game going into halftime.

After Chase’s first touchdown, the Bengals missed out on a chance to get the ball right back when cornerback Eli Apple dropped an interception to end the first quarter. Cincinnati would have had a chance to tie the game. Instead, Mahomes hit Mecole Hardman on a 53-yard pass two plays later to set up Williams’ first touchdown run for a 21-7 advantage with 12:56 left in the half.

Kansas City had taken the early lead on touchdown receptions by Demarcus Robinson and former Bearcats tight end Travis Kelce. However, after Kelce’s 3-yard score, the Bengals wasted no time getting back in the game. On second-and-7 from the Cincinnati 28-yard line, Burrow connected with Chase at about the 40-yard line, and Chase cut inside and blew past at least three Kansas City defenders on a 60-yard dash into the end zone.

Chase’s third touchdown of the day gave the Bengals their 12th play of 50 yards or more this season. Burrow has 15 touchdown passes of 30 yards or more, the most in the NFL.

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