It was everything anyone could have wanted on the first Sunday of 2022 as the Bengals looked to reach another huge milestone for the 2021 season and rode the generation-setting tandem of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase to a stunning 34-31 win over two-time AFC champion Kansas City to secure the AFC North title before a deliriously packed Paul Brown Stadium.
It was the wildest finish ever at PBS. The Bengals couldn't score on three tries inside the KC 1, tried a fourth down pass, got a holding call on both teams and they passed for it again on fourth down and on the incompletion wide receiver Tyler Boyd drew a flag.
But Burrow went off the field limping on his right leg. Backup Brandon Allen came on, spiked it twice and Evan McPherson kicked them into the playoffs with a 20-yard field goal at the gun.
Burrow put up another 446 yards on 30 of 39 sifting, just four shy of the all-time record for yards in two straight games a week after blitzing the Ravens for 525 yards. Chase broke Chad Johnson's club record for a game with 266 yards on 10 catches, as well as Jerry Butler's 42-year-old NFL rookie record of 255, as the Bengals won their first game under Zac Taylor trailing after three quarters.
View the best game action photos from the Bengals hosting the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17 of the 2021 NFL season.
Chase finished with more yards than Patrick Mahomes (259) had passing.
A week after Tee Higgins strafed the Ravens for a career-high 194 yards, Chase drilled the Chiefs for the all-time rookie record. He danced on the right sidelines for a 35-yard pass with Burrow under terrific pressure on a blitz and then did it again on third-and-27 when Burrow hit him again for 30 more on the right sideline frying cornerback Charvarius Ward.
But it was Burrow's fourth touchdown pass of the day (giving him the Bengals single-season record with 34) to slot receiver Tyler Boyd that gave them their first lead of the day with 11:44 left on a five-yard arrow as Boyd dragged the back foot down going out of the end zone's left side. That gave them a 31-28 lead after being down 14 points on three different occasions.
After giving up 28 first-half points, the defense blanked Mahomes until Harrison Butker's 34-yard field goal tied it with 6:01 left at 31. An all-out blitz led by free safety Jessie Bates III in the red zone forced
It was arguably the Bengals' biggest regular-season game since Dec. 22, 2014, the next-to-last time they beat a team with double-digit wins. When they knocked off the Broncos that Monday night at PBS, it put them in the playoffs for the fourth straight season with a Wild Card berth.
Burrow went over 300 yards for the sixth time this season, breaking the team record on a day he became the club's single-season passing leader breaking Andy Dalton's 2013 record.
The officiating crew, levelled by COVID, had a patchwork unit, tried to keeping up with the two teams that put 52 points in the game's first 32 minutes.
The Bengals remained being one of the league leaders scoring on the first possession of the second half when Chase again stunned Chiefs. He scored his third touchdown when safety Daniel Sorenson drifted to the middle of the field and Chase kept running down the left side line for a 69-yarder that cut to 28-24.
The quarterbacks were brilliant in that High Noon first half. Mahomes went for 209 yards on 17 of 22 passing for two touchdowns and a 136.4 passer rating. Burrow went click-for-clock with 15 of 21 for 193 yards and two touchdowns on a 131.6 passer rating.
CBS had Burrow pressured ten times of 23 drop backs, but, Chase buffaloed the Chiefs coverage. His 72-yard touchdown that cut the lead to 14-7 came with about 60 yards after the catch when Burrow popped it to him in a seam and Chase froze linebacker Nick Bolton on his way to outrunning the safeties for his third touchdown catch of at least 70 yards this season.
After Burrow became the Bengals all-time passing leader on a 20-yard flip on third down to Boyd, on the next snap he back-shouldered an 18-yard touchdown to Chase working one-on-one with Ward that made it 21-14 and they were only halfway through the second quarter.
After Mahomes got away with throwing a pick right at cornerback Eli Apple that was dropped, he turned it into another touchdown on a drive marked by the Bengals' inability to tackle running back Darrell Williams, whose 33 yards in the half came on a majority after contact.
Down 28-14, the Bengals tried to double up when they got the ball with 2:50 left in the half knowing they'd get the ball to begin the second half.
But they could only get McPherson's 46-yard field goal when the Chiefs put up a stand from the KC 28. On second-and-ten, an all-out blitz forced Burrow to get rid of it and on the next snap Burrow got hit into an incompletion on a costly play. Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor beat right tackle Isaiah Prince and crushed Burrow into the right ankle of left guard Quinton Spain, one of their most consistent linemen.
Spain was done for the day and maybe the first playoff game and backup right guard Jackson Carman moved in to take his first snaps at left guard in a game.
After ushering out the Chiefs on a three-and-out to open the game, the Bengals gave up four straight touchdown drives despite the Chiefs' revamped offensive line that lost another starter on Sunday's second series, backup left tackle Lucas Niangon, working on the left side after moving over from starting on the right earlier in the season.
A 32-yard pass interference call on Bates working on tight end Travis Kelce set up the first one and the third one was set up on a killing 53-yard bomb to wide receiver Mecole Hardman coming out of the slot on third-and-17 one-on-an-one against cornerback Mike Hilton when they blitzed Mahomes.