CINCINNATI, Ohio (WCMH) — Several members of the Bengals, including quarterback Joe Burrow and head coach Zac Taylor, spoke with the media Wednesday to preview Cincinnati’s AFC Championship game against Kansas City.
The Bengals beat the Chiefs 34-31 in week 17 to secure the AFC North championship on a walk-off 20-yard field goal from Evan McPherson. The Bengals’ rookie kicker went 4-for-4 last week against the Titans in the divisional round, including the game-winning 52-yard field goal as time expired.
Cincinnati didn’t make it easy going down 14-0 against KC with 2:50 left in the first quarter and trailed by 14 points at three different times in the first half.
“You can’t let a team like this get out in front of you cause then they put a lot of pressure on you. You know they’re going to blitz you and make you uncomfortable,” Burrow said. “We were able to fight out of [the 14-0 deficit] and ended up winning the game but we’d like to have a stronger start.”
Too many sacks
Burrow was sacked four times in the win but that’s nothing new as pass blocking’s been a problem all season with the Bengals allowing the third-most sacks in the league. Their struggles were made abundantly clear last week after allowing nine sacks, tying a playoff record.
“There’s a lot of things that play into it starting with me putting our guys in the best position to block the other team,” head coach Zac Taylor said. “Some games it’s great, some games we’re going to need to improve and certainly we’ve put a lot of time and effort into making sure we can have the cleanest pocket possible for Joe on Sunday.”
Burrow bounces back
Burrow still threw for 348 yards against the Titans, including the most important 19 yards on a pass to Ja’Marr Chase along the sideline with 15 seconds left to put Cincinnati in field goal range.
During the virtual press conference, Burrow said his time at Ohio State helped him prepare, embrace and excel in those moments of adversity.
“I wouldn’t be the same player I am today without those trials and tribulations there. I loved my time there. I stay in contact with a lot of people from Ohio State,” Burrow said. “I think I am who I am because of the difficult times that I went through in my career . . . I think part of what makes certain people great is the adversity that they’ve had to go through.”
Burrow: I got options
In the win over Kansas City, Ja’Marr Chase hauled in 11 catches for a staggering 266 yards and three touchdowns.
The Chiefs chose to play him one-on-one, a mistake they likely won’t make again. But taking away an opponents’ top receiver didn’t work for KC last week because Bills receiver Stefon Diggs had three catches for seven yards but Gabriel Davis had eight catches for 201 yards and four touchdowns. Burrow said the Bengals other two receiving threats, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, are both capable of having that type of game.
“That’s what makes our receiving room great. Not only is every person in that room able to have a game like that, they don’t get upset if they’re not the guy that has that kind of game,” Burrow said.
Defense winning games
Most of the talk about the Bengals has been centered around second-year quarterback Joe Burrow leading a team that was 2-14 when he was drafted two years ago to a spot in the AFC Championship.
But Cincinnati’s defense deserves credit for what it’s done to help the team get to this moment as well.
After giving up 28 points to the Chiefs in the first half of week 17, the Bengals bottled Patrick Mahomes & Co. up by holding Kansas City to one field goal in the final 30 minutes. The defense followed up that performance with two more solid games against the Raiders and Titans in which they forced a combined five turnovers, including two, late fourth-quarter picks to seal the win (Raiders) and lead to the game-winning drive (Titans).
Taylor said winning the turnover battle has been a significant reason for the team’s recent success.
“We’ve been best in the league recently at [forcing turnovers] and that’s something we’ve hammered all season,” Taylor said. “[When] you’re taking away red zone opportunities like we did last week from Tennessee then we’re giving ourselves a better opportunity to win the game. We feel like we’ve got a good enough team that we’re going to steal possessions and we can take control of the game.”