Bengals pull off super rally, beat Chiefs in overtime to win AFC title

AP photo by Eric Gay / Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson is lifted by teammates after making a 31-yard field goal for a 27-24 overtime victory against the host Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday's AFC championship game.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Who Dey!? Not those same ol' Bungles, that's for sure.

Not even close.

Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow and the rest of these young, hungry Bengals are heading to the Super Bowl as unexpected and tenacious AFC champions.

Rookie kicker Evan McPherson made a 31-yard field goal for the win with 9:22 left in overtime after Burrow kept his cool while leading a furious second-half comeback. They got the Bengals to the NFL's big game for the first time in 33 years with a 27-24 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday's showdown at Arrowhead Stadium, which hosted the AFC title game for the fourth year in a row.

"It's a special team that's capable of doing special things," said coach Zac Taylor, who was in elementary school the last time the Bengals went to the Super Bowl. "We've said that from the get-go, whether people believed us or not. We believed. So we're not surprised."

And who could blame them? The Bengals erased an 18-point deficit - tying an AFC title game record for largest comeback - to take a late 24-21 lead on a 52-yarder by McPherson, a prep star in Fort Payne, Alabama, before going on to the University of Florida.

"I'd say nobody blinked an eye," he said of the Bengals falling behind big early. "I think we all thought we were going to come back and win the game."

However, Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker's 44-yarder as time expired in regulation sent it to overtime a week after his 49-yarder on the final play of regulation did the same against the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round.

And after Bills quarterback Josh Allen called tails and it came up heads for the overtime coin toss in that one - giving quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs the ball to secure a wild 42-36 victory without Buffalo's offense touching the ball in the extra period - Cincinnati backup quarterback Brandon Allen called heads and the coin came up tails.

The Chiefs opened overtime again with the ball, but Vonn Bell - a former Chattanooga-area prep star who played at Central and Ridgeland - intercepted Mahomes on the third play, and Burrow and Co. took over. Now they're heading to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1989 after winning their first playoff overtime game.

photo AP photo by Charlie Riedel / Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow gets a lift from defensive lineman Tyler Shelvin after the team's overtime win against the host Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday's AFC title game.

"Usually when you lose the coin flip to those guys, you're going home," said Burrow, who finished the game 23-of-38 passing for 250 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. "Our defense really stepped up and made plays in the second half. And on offense we made plays when we had to. I thought the offensive line played really well all day. We started running the ball there at the end, and that's exciting.

"Big win for us."

You might say that.

The Bengals will face the Los Angeles Rams, a 20-17 winner over the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday's NFC title game, in Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium. The Rams will be the second team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers became the first a year ago, when they beat the Chiefs to deny them back-to-back titles.

It will be the third Super Bowl appearance in franchise history for Cincinnati, which lost to the 49ers in both of its previous trips - 26-21 to cap the 1981 season and 20-16 to cap the 1988 season.

Mahomes and the Chiefs will be left to lament blowing a chance at what would have been their third straight Super Bowl appearance.

"When you're up 21-3 at any point in the game, you can't lose it. I put that on myself," said Mahomes, who was 26-of-39 for 275 yards with two interceptions and touchdown passes to Mecole Hardman, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.

The Chiefs had a chance at a winning touchdown in the closing seconds of regulation, but sacks by Sam Hubbard on consecutive plays forced Kansas City to settle for the tying field goal.

"We're going to the Super Bowl," Hubbard said. "It sounds crazy to say that."

The Bengals have won six of their past seven games against the Chiefs, including two this season, but it didn't look good for Cincinnati early in this one.

The Chiefs got a touchdown on their first three possessions, with Mahomes connecting with Hardman for a 3-yarder that made it 21-3 and had this one looking very much like a rout.

Burrow kept the Bengals in it, though, tossing a short pass to Samaje Perine, who avoided a tackle attempt by Charvarius Ward and raced into the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown with 1:05 left in the first half.

The Chiefs appeared headed for their fourth straight touchdown drive to open the game, especially after Byron Pringle's 10-yard catch put Kansas City at the 15 with 13 seconds left - setting off chants from the fired-up home crowd of "13 seconds!" who were still reveling in the Chiefs' stunning comeback last week against Buffalo.

A pass interference call on Eli Apple in the end zone put the ball on the 1, but the Chiefs couldn't get into the end zone on two tries, with Mahomes' pass to Tyreek Hill losing a yard and ending the half. It ended up costing them.

"I was hoping we could get the ball in the end zone," coach Andy Reid said. "I probably gave the wrong play, first of all. I could have given them something better than that. I'll take responsibility for that one."

McPherson's 31-yarder cut the Bengals' deficit to 21-13 with 2:58 left in the third quarter.

Cincinnati got the ball back at the Chiefs' 27-yard line moments later when B.J. Hill intercepted Mahomes' short pass intended for Demarcus Robinson. Two plays after Joe Mixon gained 2 yards on first-and-goal from the 5, rookie Ja'Marr Chase went up over Rashad Fenton in the end zone to catch Burrow's toss for a touchdown. Burrow then found a wide-open Trent Taylor for the 2-point conversion to tie it at 21 with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.

Burrow won a national championship his final year at LSU before becoming the No. 1 draft pick in 2020, but his rookie NFL season was cut short by injury. His second go-around has the franchise in rare territory.

The 18-point comeback by Cincinnati tied the Indianapolis Colts (versus the New England Patriots in 2006) for the largest in AFC title game history.

"I wouldn't call it surreal, I would say it's exciting," Burrow said. "I think if you would have told me before the season that we'd be going to the Super Bowl, I probably would have called you crazy. Then, you know, we play the whole season and nothing surprises me now."