This is the second straight year Kansas City has met Cincinnati in the A.F.C. championship game at Arrowhead Stadium. Last year, the Bengals earned a trip to the Super Bowl with a 27-24 overtime victory. They were down by 11 points at halftime, but held the Chiefs to only 3 points for the rest of the game. The Bengals won on a 31-yard walk-off field goal by Evan McPherson.
In Week 13, the Bengals hosted Kansas City and were ahead 14-10 at halftime. The Kansas City offense scored twice in the third quarter, but again sputtered late in the game, allowing Cincinnati to mount another successful comeback. With a fumble by Travis Kelce and a touchdown on the very next possession, the Bengals retook the lead.
Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker had the chance to tie the game with 3:24 left. His 55-yard field goal attempt was wide right.
Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy anticipates a down to the wire finish. While the Bengals defense has just 33 sacks, including in the playoffs, ranking 29th in the N.F.L., they do pressure quarterbacks into hasty decisions. The Bengals have allowed the lowest completion percentage (58.1) and passer rating (79.9) in the N.F.L. this season, including in the playoffs.
“This defense, these guys do a great job of just finishing. It starts up front, you look at those two defensive ends, they get after it,” Bieniemy said. “Those guys are relentless. If you want to beat this team, you’ve got to out-effort them. You’ve got to out-strain them. You’ve got to be playing to the echo of the last whistle. So that’s the type of game this is going to be. Put your hand in the dirt, knuckle up, 60-minute dogfight.”