CINCINNATI (WXIX) — The Cincinnati Bengals are one victory away from Super Bowl LVI and to get there they will need to knock out the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium.
Despite beating the Chiefs in Week 17, the Bengals enter Sunday’s AFC Championship game as an underdog. But as franchise quarterback Joe Burrow said after Cincinnati’s 19-16 win over the Tennessee Titans, the Bengals are ready to change the perception.
“I’m tired of the underdog narrative,” Burrow said. “We are a very, very good team. We are here to make noise.
To beat the Chiefs a second time this season will take as perfect a game as the Bengals could imagine. Kansas City has won seven straight playoff games at home since 2018 and is hosting the AFC Championship Game for the fourth straight year.
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor and Burrow are excited about the challenge they will face in front of what is considered the toughest outdoor stadium for an opposing team to play.
“If you want to do the things we want to do, this is a team you’re going to have to beat every year,” Burrow said Wednesday. “The AFC have gone through them for four consecutive years. So, you know, we’re excited about this opportunity.
The Chiefs and Bengals come into the game relatively healthy as Cincinnati came out of the division clean round injury-wise. All signs point to Kansas City Pro Bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu being able to play after sustaining a concussion against the Bills on Sunday night. The Chiefs will also have running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire for this game.
Here’s what the Bengals need to do to beat the Chiefs:
Fixed Joe Burrow’s protection
The Bengals just can’t get over a second week of Burrow taking nine sacks. Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said the sacks were the result of three different things: some of their offensive linemen losing one-on-one matchups, Burrow holding the ball too long, and communication issues as the Bengals were trying to play.
Either way, Cincinnati’s offense works best when Burrow has time to deal at the line of scrimmage. For the Bengals to beat the Chiefs, they will have to face Kansas City from a scoring standpoint.
The Bengals scored 34 points last meeting with the Chiefs and from what we’ve seen in how others have beaten Kansas City this year, the opposing team needs to score touchdowns, not goals on field.
Cincinnati has scored just three touchdowns on 22 offensive drives in the playoffs.
Limit explosive plays to Chiefs dynamic wide receiver Tyreek Hill
All eyes will be on the Bengals’ top cornerback, Chidobe Awuzie, in the next game. Awuzie played a big part in Cincinnati’s win over Kansas City by limiting Hill’s production to 31 yards on eight targets and two first downs when he was in coverage at the fast wide receiver, per Pro Football Focus. The longest hold Awuzie gave up on Hill was eight yards and he recorded nine tackles.
“It was a team effort, we had great calls and coverage to try and take out their playmakers,” Awuzie said. “They’re great players no matter what, they’re a threat. Whether they get the ball back or not, they’re a threat. Just knowing where they are every play, him and (tight end Travis) Kelce and the running back and other guys too. Try to understand the locations and everything and great communication. We want to know where the guys are at because that will dictate the covers.
Hill is one of the fastest players in the NFL and he and quarterback Patrick Mahomes can change the landscape of a game in seconds. Mahomes’ favorite target is Hill and as defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said before the first game against the Chiefs, if Hill gets behind Cincinnati’s second tier defense, they won’t catch him.
“We can’t allow touchdowns,” Anarumo said. “We have to get them kicking goals on the field.”
Don’t let crowd noise lead to penalties, attacking errors
Taylor knows the atmosphere expected for Sunday’s game will be unlike anything the Bengals have experienced this season. To ensure their team is prepared, Cincinnati has been training inside Paul Brown Stadium all week so they can take advantage of the speaker system.
Taylor has turned up the music as loud as physically possible and thinks his team will be ready because of it. Against the Titans, Taylor said he didn’t get play calls fast enough to give Burrow time to say the offense in the group and make changes to the line of scrimmage based on the coverage that Tennessee was showing.
Burrow and the Bengals offense will likely have to use a silent count the entire game. Luckily for Cincinnati, Burrow has plenty of experience playing in front of rabid Southeastern Conference crowds since his time at LSU.
“It really starts with me starting the game quickly so Joe has time to chat in huddle and make any adjustments we need at the line of scrimmage,” Taylor said of preparing for the noise. a crowd.
“We have played in very noisy environments before. I know it will be a different situation, and it will cause a different increase in crowd noise. We were in the stadium. We used our stadium speakers. I think it was really effective and allowed us to get quality work and focus on our communication to be ready on Sunday.
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