Bengals can afford to start dreaming of a repeat run after the latest head flip

Before the arrival of Joe Burrow in 2020, the Cincinnati Bengals were an NFL punchline. In the third season of what looks to be a legendary NFL career, he helped them turn one of the most fearsome teams in the league into their very own punching bag.

Okay, that might go a little far. However, after the emotional 27-24 victory in week 13, it is clear that the Bengals are the dominant team in a rivalry with the Kansas City Chiefs, who they have now defeated in three consecutive games, including their extraordinary triumph at the AFC Championship Game last season.

That dream Super Bowl run looked hard to replicate, especially after the Bengals started the season 0-2 with losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys.

But concern over that initial disappointment has long since dissipated, with Burrow once building an increasingly impressive following to his outstanding 2021 campaign.

Always perfect placement

He climaxed the 2022 season on Sunday by once again outpacing Patrick Mahomes in an undulating thrill ride in Cincinnati, exhibiting the accuracy that defined the Bengals’ unexpected ascension in 2021.

The former number-one overall pick delivered accurate, well-thrown ball on 87.1 percent of his pass attempts, according to data from Stats Perform, his superb ball positioning helped him complete 25 of his 31 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Burrow also opened the scoring with a rushing touchdown.

While the final stat line in yardage may not be jaw-dropping, Burrow averaging 9.23 yards per attempt, his accuracy as a passer ensured the Bengals maintained the offensive efficiency that is critical against the Chiefs.

Burrow finished the game with an 80.6 completion percentage, more than five percent higher than his expected 75.4 completion percentage.

Yet even in a game in which Burrow was pinpoint accurate, the Bengals averaged 8.7 yards per pass, and Ja’Marr Chase had 97 yards on seven catches in his return from injury, it could be argued that the Bengals did not they fired on all cylinders. .

Though they moved the ball well, the Bengals went three-for-seven in the red zone, with Tyler Boyd making a crucial drop on a potential third-down touchdown in the third quarter, and Burrow regularly having to play with his legs when the pass protection that has improved this season has come to a halt.

Normally missed opportunities like the ones the Bengals had inside the 20-yard line would have been fatal against the Chiefs and the most feared quarterback of his generation, but since Burrow has returned from the knee injury that ended prematurely into his rookie year to retake the lead of the offense in 2021, he and Cincinnati have become adept at finding a way to prevail against any caliber of this opposition.

On this occasion against the Chiefs, it was success in finding the balance that saw them on a path to victory over the team entering Week 13 as the AFC’s number one seed.

Ying and Yang

Cincinnati’s passing play was complemented by a ground attack that exploited Kansas City’s vulnerability by defending the run.

Backup running back Samaje Perine is averaging five yards per carry, with offensive line efforts helping him put up 3.29 yards before contact per rush, sixth-most among defensive backs with 10 or more carries in the league. week 13.

More critical, however, was the fourth quarter challenge of the defense, who, despite struggling to get Mahomes off the field, pulled off two crucial stops when the Bengals needed them most.

Germaine Pratt forced and recovered a Travis Kelce fumble on a 19-yard reception to set up a go-ahead touchdown for the Bengals, on which Burrow found a wide open Chris Evans after Boyd redeemed himself with a key catch for the third down, and Joseph Ossai – who sat out his entire rookie year with injury – showed off his quick passing ability and engine to bring down Mahomes for a sack on third and short, ending the ensuing drive of the Chiefs and forcing a long field equalizing goal attempt which Harrison Butker drove wide to the right.

That gave Burrow a game-killing chance in the final minutes and, after a second sack that looked like it might give the Chiefs another chance, snuffed any lingering Kansas City hopes with one last display of his draughts shooting prowess. ‘elite.

Pressured by Derrick Nnadi, Burrow calmly delivered a perfect ball to Tee Higgins in center as the Bengals executed an angled concept, his shot delivered with timing and anticipation to whiz into Higgins’ catch and defeat the excellent coverage by rookie Joshua Williams, ensuring Cincinnati picked up a first down on third-and-11 and ended the game with the ball.

Since Week 6, when the Bengals have kicked off a run that has seen them win six of their last seven games, Burrow leads the NFL in completion percentage (72.3) and touchdown passes (16), while third in yards per attempt (8.55). ), displaying the kind of form that took the Bengals to the Super Bowl last season.

While he was incredibly accurate and efficient in Sunday’s thrilling victory, it was a performance by the Bengals that, one week after a hard-fought 20-16 win over the Tennessee Titans, further proved that they don’t necessarily need Burrow to carry the whole burden of their hopes on his shoulders.

Against Kansas City, the Bengals used a balanced offensive approach to win the tempo of the battle of possession – Cincinnati limiting the Chiefs’ opportunities by holding the ball over four minutes longer than their powerful opponents – and provided defensive stops at crucial moments .

But these key plays may not have paid off if Burrow hadn’t answered the bell with an unstoppable shot at Higgins when it was all on his shoulders.

There is talent on the Bengals roster that Burrow doesn’t have to do it all, but as he nears the end of his third pro season, the overwhelming proof is that he can.

This latest win over the Chiefs truly represents the pinnacle of 2022 for Burrow and the Bengals to this point. What’s exciting for Cincinnati, though, is that, as impressive as he was, it wasn’t Burrow’s best performance of the season.

The cap for Cincinnati’s offense is higher than what the Bengals produced in Week 13, and the fact that they didn’t have to reach it to defeat Kansas City again should offer the defending AFC champions substantial encouragement and terrorizing the rest of the conference seeks to usurp them.

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