Quick Hits: Bengals Record Stat Lines May Be Set; Anarumo's Masterpiece; Bengals DBs Immense Vs. Chiefs Weapons

Evan McPherson (left) helped lift the Bengals into the postseason.
Evan McPherson (left) helped lift the Bengals into the postseason.

It's a good thing Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase set their records Sunday in an old-fashioned 16th game that may very well have been their last game of the regular season. Because the first 17th game in Bengals history finds them with a division title and a Paul Brown Stadium Wild Card Game secured and a longshot at pulling off a bye for the playoffs that begin in two weeks.

In order for the 10-6 AFC North champion Bengals to win the bye of the AFC's top seed, they would have to win this Sunday's game in Cleveland (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's FOX 19) while the Titans, Chiefs and Patriots would all have to lose. Or, the Bengals win, the Bills win and the Chiefs and Titans both lose.

Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said Monday afternoon that his staff is still going through the 34-31 win over the Chiefs and have yet to discuss it. When Taylor was the Rams quarterbacks coach in 2018, all the NFL West champion Rams had to do was win the last game of the year to get a bye and they did.

With things not quite so simple three years later, quarterback Joe Burrow limping off the field last Sunday with a twisted knee and left guard Quinton Spain out indefinitely with a sprained ankle, it's not the same scenario. The Bengals may well know the day before the game because the Chiefs take the top seed with a win in Denver.

But Taylor said that's too late to make out a lineup. For instance if Brandon Allen is playing for Burrow, he'll probably practice all week with the ones. Who'll ever they'll be.

So, it's good that Chase got his 266 yards against the Chiefs to give him 1,429 for the season, passing old LSU teammate Justin Jefferson for the NFL rookie record. That leaves him a dozen shy of Chad Johnson's team record. Johnson may get to keep it, depending what Taylor does.

"In 2018 we were in a very similar situation where you're discussing how much does the potential seed matter as opposed to making sure guys are healthy and ready to go for the playoff run," Taylor said. "Those are just decisions we'll have to make, haven't talked in depth about it yet, it is a division game against a team that beat us earlier in the year but again we'll see how that scenario will play out as the week goes."

It looks like Burrow's final 2021 final stat line is set if Allen indeed gets the call. With the Bengals at 10-6, his career won-loss record is now at 12-13-1. His 108.3 passer rating is three points behind Aaron Rodgers and in second place for the NFL passing title. As the only AFC passer in triple digits, he'll become the first Bengal since Andy Dalton to lead the conference in 2015 with 106.3, which was the team record.

Burrow has already broken Dalton's single-season records with 34 touchdowns and 4,611 yards. His 70.4 completion percentage leads the NFL (Derek Carr at 69.2 and Kyler Murray at 69 percent are right there) and is just a tick behind Ken Anderson's iconic club record of 70.55 in 1982, the first in the modern NFL era to break 70 percent.

Burrow also leads the NFL with 8.9 yards per pass attempt. With Jimmy Garoppolo not at 100 percent, it's hard to see him bettering his second place 8.5. The 8.9 would be the third-best in Bengals history behind Greg Cook's 9.4 in 1969 and Boomer Esiason's 9.2 in 1988. Also iconic numbers. They both won their league passing titles that season with Cook the AFL Rookie of the Year and Esiason the NFL MVP.

VONN RINGS BELL: it was the most underrated play of the day.

Free safety Jessie Bates III said his post partner, strong safety Vonn Bell, basically saved his butt in the last few seconds of the first half when Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes wound up and gunned a 70-yarder. Bates had drifted back up the field and lost sight of wide receiver Tyreek Hill motoring like Hill does. Bell saw the ball go over his head and Hill catch it on the leap. But Hill couldn't hold on when he landed back on the ground as Bell punched it out at the last instant.

"Vonn played it right through his hands," Bates said.

How huge was that? The Bengals had just cut the lead to 28-17 with 46 seconds left in the half and were ready to take the opening kickoff of the second half and score. But there was Hill coming down on the Bengals 15 with eight seconds left for at last a field goal that would jack the lead back to 14.

But no. Thanks to Bell it stayed 28-17 and in the first two minutes of the second half, the Bengals did indeed score to make it 28-24.

"There was no bigger play than Vonn Bell's play at the end of the half. Mahomes reared back and threw that thing forever," said defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. "And obviously Tyreek ran a 12-yard route that turned into a 60-yard route and that's just what they do. That's one of the most underrated plays of the day is Vonn punching that damn thing out that far down the field. That was a great play. That one stands out for sure."

ALL OUT D: The entire defense stood out with a brilliant second half performance. You won't see many halves where Mahomes is held to 50 yards passing or Tyreek Hill gets just 40 yards in the same game tight end Travis Kelce gets just 25. It was Anarumo's masterpiece and may serve as a template to stop the Chiefs:

Make Mahomes hand it off. Kansas City did dent the Bengals' fifth-ranked run defense on 155 yards at 6.7 yards per pop. The way Anarumo described it, you have to give up something to get something. The last time Kelce and Hill played together, they combined for more than 300 yards. The Bengals didn't give them 70.

"The overall plan was to keep 10, Tyreek Hill, from going down the field on explosives and also Kelce, and that's what we did at the end of the day," Anarumo said. "Tyreek Hill had six for 40 and a long of 17 and Kelce was five for only 25 and a long of eight. If you can do that you have to live with the other guys. We knew were going to bleed out a little bit in the run game, but it's kind of like we used to play when we played Tom Brady, every time they turned to hand it off it's one less throw for a guy like Brady or in this case a guy like Mahomes. They're great players."

GREAT EFFORTS: Chidobe Awuzie was all over the place and showed the NFL why he's their No. 1 cornerback. According to Pro Football Focus, he held Hill to just 10 yards on two catches on Hill's three targets and he allowed just 31 yards on the seven catches he covered.

Four players worked on Kelce's five catches. Bell, cornerbacks Eli Apple and Tre Flowers, and linebacker Markus Bailey. Kelce's longest catch was eight yards and Flowers gave up his three-yard touchdown. But Flowers, a safety-like cornerback who joined the Bengals in October, played well on 21 percent of the snaps. On the Chiefs' first series of the second half, he dislodged the ball from Kelce at the end of a would-be catch over the middle to set up a third-and-nine the Bengals forced a punt.

"I was proud of Tre. He comes in and he's got a tall order to cover these guys," said Anarumo of Flowers, a tall order himself at 6-3. "The way he competed certainly. The one play that's huge is it's 2nd-and-9 and he punches the ball out from Kelce to get us to third down. Just little things like that. If not that's a first down and they're moving the chains. He's come in and done everything we've asked."

Awuzie, whose injured foot may have been helped when he missed the Dec. 19 game in Denver, has picked up where he left off.

"I think he shows his overall game in so many ways," Anarumo said. "He had a bunch of tackles (Sunday), was tight in coverage, as always. I think he felt a little bit better with the foot. So, you put that all together, a lot of guys played well. Chido had one of his better games for sure yesterday."

BOYD SEEKS MORE: You have to love Bengals slot receiver Tyler Boyd. His rookie year, 2016, was the season the Bengals stopped going to playoffs. His 1,000-yard seasons in 2018 and 2019 and his 841 last season while catching 388 balls in his career helped bridge the last two playoff teams. His six-yard touchdown catch with 11:44 left won it and his leap into the stands symbolized the clutch reliability and passion that has marked his career.

"I was still a little tired when I jumped up. The fans helped me up here," Boyd said of the spur-of-the-moment PB Plunge. "But it was just random. I was just excited, and once I caught it, I was already drifting towards the wall and the fans and they were pumped so I just wanted to leap in there with them to celebrate."

Sunday's win was so sweet for him he couldn't take the AFC North Championship hat off his head on Monday.

"Yeah, when I went to sleep," said Boyd, when asked if he took it off at all. "But once I got back up and moving around a little bit, I had to put it back on and let everybody know. I'm very proud to be wearing this."

Boyd said he and his buddy Joe Mixon were the last to leave the locker room at about 5:45 p.m. Sunday, almost two hours after the game.

"We were just chilling. Because me and him, we've been a part of this," Boyd said. "We're among the players that have been here the longest and we felt it. We worked so hard for this moment, we just wanted to cherish it."

Naturally, Boyd, 172 yards shy of 1,000, wants to play Sunday.

"I'm trying to get 1, 000," Boyd said. "I still believe in myself and I believe in our team to get the win. Regardless if they're eliminated and we're in, we want to go out there and beat them because they humiliated us last time (41-16). They put a whooping on us and we didn't like that. So I think every guy is going to want to play."

Boyd happened to be in the camera frame with Taylor when Evan McPherson's kick went through for the win and they shared an embrace.

"I had to show him love first for just getting the team together how he did and building it and getting the right key players to it," Boyd said. "So definitely tip my hat off to Zac. He did a great job of turning the program around."

BATES SAVORS THE MOMENT: Bates has missed just one game in a career he has started every other game. And that was on this year's short week against Jacksonville. He has still played 95 percent of the snaps, the first year he hasn't played 99 percent. He's seen it all and on Monday he was quite eloquent about it.

"There's so much struggle that has come, not only this year, but in those first three years and just being part of something that's trying to rebuild," Bates said. "And to see it all kind of come full fold, it's a special feeling for sure.

"But that's not the only thing that we're trying to do here. We're not trying to only win the AFC North, we're trying to actually be contenders and take that next step. I think as you have success, you kind of have to re-evaluate stuff and set the standard a little bit higher. Hopefully we can do that."

MAC UPBEAT: Bengals kicker Evan McPherson admitted he had some kind of physical ailment Sunday, but on Monday he said it is minor and that it won't prevent him from kicking in Cleveland. It didn't stop him from hitting all six kicks against the Chiefs, four extra points and two field goals, one from 46 yards and the 20-yarder that won it.

So he's a field goal away from breaking Mike Nugent's single-season club record of 132 points, which would cap off a massive rookie season he already holds the Bengals career record for 50-yarders with nine.

On Saturday night, he enjoyed the clips special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons showed the specialists of the Bengals 2003 win over the undefeated Chiefs when Simmons was all of 30 years old in his first year with the Bengals. But he remembers the significance of a team on the come asserting itself against a league power and he couldn't resist showing the similarities. Especially Peter Warrick's 68-yard fourth-quarter punt return that sealed it.

"It definitely meant something," McPherson said of the old movie. "I think everybody thought it was pretty funny because we got to see, what is it, 27 or 29-year-old Darrin? I think it was right after the Bengals scored a punt return for a touchdown, and they cut to Darrin after they scored and you could tell he was kind of frustrated. And everybody's like 'Why are you frustrated? You just scored a touchdown.'

"But that's just Darrin. He might get a big play, but if somebody didn't do something perfect, he's going to get onto them. It's just funny. I think the guys really enjoy seeing that, just a little piece of history. It was a big game for the Bengals back then, just like yesterday was a big game for us now."

View the best game action photos from the Bengals hosting the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17 of the 2021 NFL season.

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