The Bengals mastered the Chiefs for the third time in 338 days Sunday and speaking of calendars, Cincinnati broke Kansas City's NFL-record streak of 26 straight wins in November and December in a 27-24 victory at Paycor Stadium that was the Chiefs' first December loss since 2018.
And it may not have been the playoffs, but they were calling linebacker Germaine Pratt "Playoff P," again because it's been about 10 months and two weeks ago when he preserved the Wild Card win with a goal-line interception in the final seconds and on Sunday he saved this one in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter when he wrenched the ball free from one of the greatest tight ends who ever lived.
It was Travis Kelce's first fumble of the season and he may be going to Canton, but he's not taking the ball that was on the floor in front of Pratt's locker an hour after the game. Not sure if the game ball that head coach Zac Taylor gave Pratt is the one he ripped from Kelce at the end of 19-yard-catch-and-run and then picked it up off the Bengals 47. But there was the game with the Chiefs leading, 24-20, with 13:52 left.
But Pratt was long gone an hour after the game. He left the ball and, it looked like, everything else. For some reason they also call him "Louie P," Or just plain 'P," and the now calendar says 'Playoff P."
"I'll put it in his spot," said linebacker Markus Bailey as he gently placed the newest Who-Dey heirloom in the locker.
"I think he had to get out of here to meet family," Bailey said.
Before he left, Pratt told the media, "We knew that we needed to make a turnover. We were in Cover-3," he said of the zone. "Kelce sat down in a little weak spot of the defense. I just had an opportunity to go for the ball."
Quarterback Joe Burrow clearly had the Wild Card win over Las Vegas in mind.
"That guy," Burrow said. "I feel like I say this every week, but he just makes plays in big time moments to get us the ball back."
BENCH EMPTIER: Another game where the Bengals flexed their bench. On offense, the winning touchdown was scored by running back Chris Evans on his second snap of the game and his third catch of the season on an eight-yard touchdown.
And the last time Mahomes touched the ball came on third-and-three from the Bengals 33 with four minutes left when second-year back-up edge Joseph Ossai dumped him for his second NFL sack on a diving second-effort shoestring tackle on his 12th play of the game.
Huge. It not only bottled up Mahomes' magic, but it made it a 55-yard field goal and Harrison Butker obliged with the miss.
If the alignment looked familiar, it's because it looked just like the eight-man drop defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo used at the end of regulation of the AFC title game when the Bengals forced a field goal in the red zone. Left end Sam Hubbard became "the spy," moving back off the line into the middle of the field mirroring Mahomes' every move. The difference is the only member of the line that made the rush last Jan. 30 that resulted in Hubbard's sack is tackle B.J. Hill.
With sack ace Trey Hendrickson gassed after a first down play he maniacally chased Mahomes all over the place and finally into the left sideline for an incompletion at the end of a night he was all-out for 71 percent of the plays. Ossai, who missed all of his rookie year last season with injuries, lined up on the right edge and rookie Zach Carter on the left edge with the veteran Hill in the middle.
"I'm happy I can give Trey that confidence," Ossai said. "If he's exhausted because he's chasing Mahomes all over the field, he can come off and knows somebody can help out. He can come out for a play, catch his breath and come back in and keep doing what he does."
Ossai ripped through the inside of a pretty good left tackle, Orlando Brown, and Mahomes had to step up to whirl away from Ossai. It looked like Mahomes was taking off for a scrambling first down, but Ossai came back with a diving stretch to grab Mahomes by his ankle for the sack. With Hubbard cleaning up behind him, he knew he could shoot his shot.
"I had a two-way go on the tackle I took the inside. I made it decisive," Ossai said. "He got away and I was thinking, 'Just get him on the ground,' because he's very dangerous when he breaks the pocket and makes those extended plays."
How about Evans' touchdown? He was in the game for only the second time because it was a Zac Special. Evans lined up split right in a bunch formation with wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase lined up in the backfield. The solid pass protection and the Chiefs' confusion left Evans scot-free as he ran across the field underneath the zone for a touchdown on a check-down.
"He must have had plenty of time because I was the last option," Evans said. "I couldn't believe how wide open I was on a check-down."
O-LINE STATEMENT: Take a bow, offensive line.
The Bengals dented an excellent KC front that was fifth against the rush for 4.5 yards a carry for 152 yards, the second time in five games they hit the magic 150 number. Burrow had 46 of them, second most of his career, but the big stat is the Chiefs pass rush that came in eighth in sacks per pass had only one and it was a gimmie on the Bengals' next-to-last snap of the game as Burrow tried to get the clock under two minutes and went down willingly and smartly.
Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones, who came in leading all NFL interior players with 10 sacks, didn't touch Burrow. Center Ted Karras confirmed he often doubled on Jones with one of the guards.
"The priority was him. Obviously a very dynamic player and one we'll probably play again," Karras said.
But the line wanted to talk about backup running back Samaje Perine bulling for 106 yards on 21 carries in his first 100-yard game in three seasons and those 49 yards that came on six catches.
"He makes us look good," said rookie left guard Cordell Volson.
Karras: "I want to give Perine some (praise). What a dog. An absolute animal. He's playing at a high level. He's a big reason we're winning games. He's hitting it fast."
Right guard Alex Cappa says it's all about working together.
"Perine? He's a freaking beast," Cappa said. "Our backfield is really good. When you have a guy like Joe Mixon and can put in a guy like Samaje if you have to, that's crazy."