Chiefs-Bengals AFC title game: 4 winners and 6 losers after Kansas City loss


For the second week in a row, it’s hard to find the words to describe how we feel about a Kansas City Chiefs game. But this week, it’s the exact opposite of last week.

The Chiefs lost a heartbreaker after again take a big lead in the first half and let it slip away with a miserable attacking performance in the second half. We’ll always remember that incredible Divisional Round win over the Buffalo Bills — but sadly, we’ll probably remember that 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals for almost as long.

Here are a few who stood out in the Chiefs’ final game of the 2021 season.


Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Mecole Hardman: Again – in a limited role – Hardman was fantastic. His 44-yard catch was one of the highlights of the afternoon. His touchdown reception from quarterback Patrick Mahomes was a thing of beauty. Five touches, 70 yards and a touchdown is a really solid play from a gadget receiver who has really settled into his role.

Melvin Ingram: Get this man a new contract! Ingram was often an animal against the Bengals. His only sack of the day was absolutely dominant as he destroyed the tackle and flew in to bring down Joe Burrow. On the very next play, he had a slap pass – and it looked like he might just take control of the game. He’s been one of the keys to this run for the Chiefs, and we hope to see more of him next season.

Willie Gay, Jr. Between Gay and Nick Bolton, the linebacker’s future is promising. On Sunday, Gay defended a few passes and a tackle for loss. He was flying around the pitch, becoming a big part of what was – all things considered – a pretty solid defensive performance. In the years to come, he will have the chance to be a central figure in this team.

The Jarius Sneed: The other defensive player the Chiefs can build around is the best secondary player. Sneed’s 10 tackles, including one for a loss, led the team. He knocked down a pass and had a spectacular interception. He needs more help in the secondary, but Sneed’s combination of ball skills, speed and tackling is something special.


AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Patrick Mahomes: We might as well start here, because despite everything he did to get them to this game – and as brilliant as he was in the first half – Mahomes was the main reason his team lost in the second. half time. He turned the ball over twice – and nearly lost a fumble that would have resulted in three turnovers in one half. He picked up bags he shouldn’t and hesitated when he normally wouldn’t. But the fact that he didn’t come out in the clutch is the most shocking part of this loss. Mahomes had a chance to win that game at the end of regulation and on the first overtime drive, and the result was – well, you know the result. The greatest player on Earth is no less of a stud because of this loss – but it’s now fair to say he’s inconsistent. Her highs are indeed magical – but her lows are uncomfortable, flimsy and lead to reversals. Maybe he’s more Brett Favre than Tom Brady?

Chris Jones and Frank Clark: In the Divisional Round against the Titans, Burrow was sacked nine times. The Chiefs (i.e. Ingram) only reached it once. Jones nearly got him fired at least once – but then let him slip away for a first down. Clark had even less to show for his efforts that day. When this team needed big defensive plays, #SackNation could not deliver. These two players make too much money to get laundered on the biggest stages.

Orlando Brown, Jr.: The only guy on the Bengals defense who might be able to destroy a game is Trey Hendrickson. He didn’t destroy this one – but he came close. Hendrickson had a sack and a half, a few quarterback hits and good pressure — mostly at Brown’s expense. He’s had a good season overall, but it will be fascinating to see how the offseason negotiations go.

Daniel Sorensen: That was the story of this season for Sorensen. Too late to help Chase’s touchdown. Not able to stay with his male cover guy on the two-point conversion. We didn’t even have the playoff heroism that we used to see from him.

Andy Reid: Like his quarterback, the head coach wasn’t as good as he should have been. When they had the chance to put points on the board at the end of the first half, the two lacked the situational awareness to get the job done. Mahomes seemed to think he had another timeout and convinced Reid to let him take another shot on a touchdown. Then, when time expired, he kicked Tyreek Hill before the end zone. In the second half, the execution was even worse. The offense stagnated, making just one field goal in the last two quarters plus overtime. These two get the credit when the team wins – and should also be blamed when they don’t. They didn’t do it on Sunday – so this season will ultimately be remembered as a failure.


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