Chiefs defeat Bengals to reach Super Bowl LVII: How Chris Jones limited Cincinnati’s offense – The Athletic

By Nate Taylor, Paul Dehner Jr. and Jay Morrison

The Kansas City Chiefs are headed to the Super Bowl after kicker Harrison Butker connected on a 45-yard field goal with three seconds to play. Here’s what you need to know:

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

What worked for Kansas City down the stretch

Entering the game, the hope for the Chiefs was that their roster would equally support Mahomes, who played with a right high-ankle sprain. But the circumstances changed when the fourth quarter began. Mahomes was asked to carry the Chiefs without receivers Kadarius Toney, Mecole Hardman and JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Bengals’ defense also prevented the Chiefs from gaining much when giving the ball to running back Isiah Pacheco.

With six minutes left, the Chiefs needed Mahomes to be their rescuer, their improvisational gunslinger who could create a remarkable highlight. On the Chiefs’ last possession, Mahomes selected the correct time to scramble, to push his ankle sprain, to sprint as fast as he could to give his team a critical first down. When they needed four yards on third down in the final minute, Mahomes scrambled to his right for five yards. Then, Ossai pushed Mahomes to the turf when he was out of bounds, committing a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. Butker made the game-winning kick on a 45-yard field goal. — Taylor

Chris Jones was everywhere

Jones, the league’s best interior pass rusher, chose a perfect time to have his most magnificent postseason performance of his seven-year career. Before the game, Jones had never recorded a sack in the playoffs. But against the Bengals, Jones led the Chiefs’ defense by pressuring and hitting Burrow throughout the game.

Jones’ rare combination of quickness and power was the perfect strength the Chiefs needed to attack the Bengals’ biggest offensive weakness: their makeshift offensive line. Jones dominated the Bengals’ three backup offensive linemen in Hakeem Adeniji, Max Scharping and Jackson Carman. Jones finished the game with five quarterback hits, three tackles behind the line of scrimmage and two sacks, his final occurring on the Bengals’ final offensive play, which set up the game-winning heroics for Mahomes and Butker. — Taylor

Bengals will be haunted by missed opportunities

The Bengals had their chances. In a game where they badly missed Alex Cappa and watched Jones blow up their offense, they still had the ball in position to win the game in the final minutes, but couldn’t make the plays necessary. They will look back at the late hit by Ossai, though there were other missed opportunities before that. They had a dream season and will have a hard time swallowing a game they felt like they should win. What a heavyweight bout and no luster lost off what the Bengals accomplished. But they have now been to the brink of the first Lombardi in franchise history twice in Burrow’s two full seasons and come away empty. — Dehner

Bengals’ offensive line struggled majorly vs. Jones

The first half looked like so many of Cincinnati’s losses this year with lots of sacks and penalties, with Chiefs All-Pro defensive tackle Jones responsible for most of it. But the Bengals defense got a pair of 3-and-outs to straddle halftime and the offense managed a field goal just before the break and a touchdown on its first possession of the third quarter.

Jones continued to get pressure to force Burrow out of rhythm, and got a huge sack with 39 seconds to go in regulation to thwart a potential game-winning drive for the Bengals and set up Butker’s game-winning 45-yard field goal. Jones had one of the best defensive games in postseason history with two sacks, five hits, three tackles for loss and numerous holds drawn against a Bengals offensive line that was impressive last week at Buffalo. — Morrison

Highlight of the game

Mahomes scrambles and gets the Bengals to add a late hit to push the Chiefs into field goal range.

Harrison Butker makes the game-winning kick to send Kansas City to the Super Bowl.

The touchdown pass and catch from Mahomes and Kelce was the 13th of this postseason for the pair. It moves them into sole possession of second most in NFL playoff history behind Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski (15).

(Photo: Denny Medley / USA Today)

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