Instant analysis after Bengals beat Chiefs, win AFC North title

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Instant analysis after Bengals beat Chiefs, win AFC North title
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The Cincinnati Bengals squared up with the AFC-leading Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday and took the AFC North crown via a 34-31 win.

Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase dragged the team kicking and screaming into a shootout that was a nail-biting affair start to finish, even when the gap was 14 points.

Here’s a look at some instant analysis coming out of the game.

Quick Hits

— In a likely shootout…both offenses went three-and-out to start the game. Chiefs scored on their second drive, with a questionable DPI on Jessie Bates moving them down the field before Eli Apple got beat in coverage. Apple was something to watch with Trae Waynes once again unavailable.

— Defensive miscues really hurt the Bengals defense in the opening quarter. Apple and Jessie Bates appeared to be trying to figure out what happened on the first touchdown. The second, a pass to Travis Kelce, featured more of the game.

Ja’Marr Chase made one of the best TD plays of the entire season.

— Chase scored again on the team’s next drive, an 18-yard catch. Oh, and again on the team’s first drive of the third quarter. By the end of that drive? Six catches, 180 yards and three touchdowns.

All the Chase highlights.

— Two major points of regret in the first half? Opting for a punt on fourth-and-short and Apple dropping an interception. That was the difference when the Chiefs can score every time they have the ball.

— Bengals finally got a rare third-down stop in the middle of the third quarter, only to take a sack that knocked them out of field goal range. This while down only 28-24.

— From rarity to commonplace? A second third-down stop with the game at 28-24 let the Bengals get the ball and dart down the field, resulting in a Tyler Boyd touchdown to make it 31-28. Chiefs pressure just wasn’t hitting home and Burrow spread it out to all of his weapons nearly perfectly.

— From weakness to strength? A third Kansas City third-down try in a row got stuffed. Chiefs, understandably, settled for the field goal to tie things up.

— Chiefs again had no answer for Chase as he went over the 260-yard mark on the offense’s final drive.

Key Stat

6-of-11: Kansas City’s conversation rate on third down. There are a lot of notable stats — highlighted by Chase’s output, of course, but the Cincinnati defense’s inability to get off the field kept them overexposed and a Burrow-led offense watching from the sidelines.

Game Balls

Ja’Marr Chase: Stunner, right? The fifth-overall pick just put up an all-timer of a modern performance from a wideout. He’s the main reason this game was even close and he finished with 11 catches for 266 yards and three scores.

Joe Burrow: Dirty pockets or not, Burrow was remarkably calm, composed and didn’t make any major mistakes. It’s certainly hard to fault him for going at Chase all day.

Top Takeaway

The arrival as true contenders: Win or lose, the how of it was going to say a lot. Win, great. Lose — how badly? And the fact of the matter is, this was a great showing for the Bengals against the AFC’s top seed and a Super Bowl favorite. It’s proof the team can already hang with the NFL’s best. They’re ahead of schedule in just year two of the Burrow era. Sunday was also proof if Burrow and Co. get hot in the playoffs, anything could happen.

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