The Conference Championships have concluded, and the Chiefs and Eagles are set to face off in this year’s Super Bowl. The Chiefs narrowly escaped Joe Burrow and the Bengals in a closely contested game, while the Eagles dominated the quarterback-less 49ers. Despite the inclination to delve into the topic of injuries, the AFC matchup proved to be more captivating. Pat Mahomes and his team secured the victory with a Harrison Butker field goal on the second-to-last play of the game, prompting questions about the closely contested nature of the game. Was it the Bengals’ struggles or the Chiefs playing at a high level that made the game so intense? Let’s rewind the tape.

Cincinnati’s first-half struggles, especially in the opening quarter, emerged as the primary issue leading to their defeat. Had they established an offensive rhythm, the narrative might have focused on the Chiefs facing another loss. Instead, the Bengals faced adversity, and Andy Reid’s Chiefs secured their spot in the Super Bowl. Both drives in the first quarter resulted in punts, spanning a mere 8 plays and consuming about 5 minutes. Within those plays, the Bengals’ offensive line allowed 3 sacks totaling 21 yards—an unacceptable performance in a crucial game. Despite injuries and challenges upfront, other players needed to step up for the Bengals, making the first quarter a blueprint of what not to do.

Does the Bengals’ defense deserve more credit? Not entirely. The Chiefs, despite being more battered than the Bengals’ offense, had three receivers and Mahomes and Kelce playing injured. The Bengals’ defense played adequately, but considering the circumstances, they could have performed better than the scoreline indicates. Mahomes’ struggles, evident in erratic throws and difficulty standing in the pocket, indicated his physical discomfort. The turnover that the Bengals capitalized on was a result of a Mahomes mistake rather than a forced error by the Bengals.

Now, let’s shift the focus to Joe Burrow. The Bengals’ QB had a somewhat mediocre performance in a crucial game. Two interceptions marred his performance, with both throws exhibiting questionable decision-making. In the first interception during the second quarter, Burrow overlooked the floating safety, making an ill-advised throw on third and short. The second interception, a deep throw in double coverage, also raised concerns about decision-making in a critical situation. Both instances occurred in situations where a conservative approach to moving the chains would have sufficed, rather than attempting high-risk plays.

Despite these setbacks, Burrow displayed some positive aspects, making excellent throws to the sidelines and showcasing mobility. The credit for the first touchdown to Higgins and the significant fourth-down conversion to Chase largely goes to the receivers. The absence of a viable Cincinnati running game added another layer of difficulty. This game will serve as a learning experience for the Bengals and Burrow. As long as Joe continues to get opportunities at the Lombardi trophy, he is likely to secure one eventually. Unfortunately, this year was not the year for the Bengals.

Top Picture by Getty Images

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