In two different 2021 games against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Kansas City Chiefs held an 11-point lead going into halftime — and then lost by a field goal at the end of the game.
So when the two teams met in Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon, it was the Bengals’ turn to run out to an 11-point lead in the second quarter — and it was the Chiefs’ turn to fight their way back, taking a 24-17 lead in the third quarter. After the Bengals narrowed the lead to 24-20, tight end Travis Kelce fumbled the ball at midfield, opening the way for Cincinnati to collect a 27-24 victory.
The Bengals won the opening coin toss, electing to receive the ball right out of the gate. They took the ball at the 25-yard line after a touchback.
Cincinnati started marching down the field, moving the chains three times with quick passes and short runs. They crossed midfield continuing to lean on running back Semaje Perine. They approached the end zone with two big completions over the middle, taking advantage of the light pressure from Kansas City’s defensive line. From the four-yard line, quarterback Joe Burrow took a draw into the end zone for an opening-drive touchdown. The extra point made it 7-0.
From the 26-yard line, the Chiefs got going with a rush and a catch by running back Isiah Pacheco; he totaled 21 yards between the plays to get near midfield. Two plays later, they faced third-and-4; from the slot, wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster won on a whip route to gain 16 yards. Running back Jerick McKinnon took a handoff into the red zone on the next play.
A good run and an incompletion set up third-and-3, where Mahomes went to an open Travis Kelce — but defensive tackle DJ Reader batted away the attempt. A good field goal tightened the score to 7-3.
A first-down scramble by Burrow put the Bengals in good position to start the drive, moving the chains with a quick pass. Soon after, it appeared that safety Juan Thornhill had intercepted Burrow, but a pass-interference call on cornerback Trent McDuffie brought the turnover back. On the next play, defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth was called for roughing the passer. Two good runs then put the Bengals into the red zone as the first quarter ended.
Defensive tackle Chris Jones started the second period by blowing up a run play; linebacker Willie Gay Jr. cleaned up the play for a five-yard loss. On third-and-8, Burrow found wide receiver Tee Higgins on a slant route, beating cornerback Joshua Williams for a touchdown. An unsportsmanlike conduct call on Chase followed the score, but it still gave Cincinnati a 14-3 lead.
On the next drive, the Chiefs quickly faced a third down after right tackle Andrew Wylie surrendered a sack to defensive end Sam Hubbard. A potential conversion was taken away by two penalties for ineligible players downfield, which forced a punt.
To open their possession, Chase was called for offensive pass interference to take away a chains-moving reception on second down. It set up third-and-12, where pressure by defensive ends Frank Clark and George Karlaftis forced a scramble short of the sticks. The Bengals settled for a punt.
Kansas City started their attack with two play-action passes, both gaining more than 12 yards. Pacheco got them a new set of downs over the next two plays. On the next play, a near-interception fell to the ground after Mahomes forced a throw. They got to third-and-4, but a long throw to Kelce fell incomplete. On fourth down, a quick pass to Smith-Schuster got just enough to keep the drive alive.
A jet sweep to wide receiver Skyy Moore followed a good run by McKinnon to get the Chiefs to the Bengals’ 12-yard line. McKinnon carved out another good run, gaining 11 yards to get to the Cincinnati one-yard line. Two tries didn’t go well, forcing third and goal — where Mahomes found McKinnon in the flat for a touchdown. The extra point made it 14-10.
Right before the two-minute warning, Perine had a nine-yard run — one that featured a stiff arm of safety Justin Reid — his second missed tackle against the run. Chase had a 40-yard completion by beating Williams deep and finding space inside the red zone. The Chiefs’ defense worked the Bengals into third-and-1, where they stuffed Burrow on a sneak. On fourth-and-1, defensive end Carlos Dunlap shot a gap, making a tackle-for-loss that gave Kansas City the ball.
Two runs put the game into halftime — with the Bengals leading 14-10.
The Chiefs started with the ball in the second half, quickly facing third and 7 after a deep incompletion to Valdes-Scantling. Mahomes beat the blitz by going back to the veteran receiver, who hauled in the pass for a 42-yard gain. A screen pass to Kelce got the Chiefs inside the Bengals’ 15-yard line on the next play. From there, they trusted Pacheco to take it up the middle — converting a third down and scoring to take a 17-14 lead.
The Bengals responded by gashing the middle of the field twice, both times with a throw to wide receiver Tyler Boyd. Over the midfield stripe, the Bengals used the run game to inch closer to the red zone — then faced third and 3. To convert, a wheel route popped wide open, but Boyd dropped the touchdown pass. Cincinnati had to settle for a field goal, tying the score at 17-17.
Kansas City got their drive going with a 15-yard completion to wide receiver Justin Watson — taking advantage of great field position by a good kickoff. However, they faced third and 10 from the Cincinnati 38-yard line; to convert, Mahomes found Valdes-Scantling in single coverage — trusting him to complete the 29-yard contested catch. Two short gains set up third and goal, where a pressured Mahomes was forced to throw away. On fourth and goal, Mahomes scrambled up the middle and leaped into hits to barely cross the goal line — scoring the go-ahead touchdown. It gave the Chiefs a 24-17 lead.
The Cincinnati offense continued to carve chunks out of the Chiefs’ defense to march down the field, earning gains of 21 and 13 yards in two of the drive’s first three plays. Then, Burrow took off on a direct run for 16 yards to get to the Chiefs’ 32-yard line. Another successful run brought the game into the fourth quarter.
Trying to convert third and one, Burrow went to Higgins for a jump ball over McDuffie — but the rookie didn’t give up enough space for Higgins to land. A penalty negated the play anyways, giving Burrow another shot — but Gay deflected a pass to force fourth down. A successful field goal tightened the lead to 24-20, still in the Chiefs’ favor.
Looking to take a two-possession lead, Kansas City got going with a big play to Kelce over the middle — but linebacker Germaine Pratt stripped the ball and forced a very crucial turnover.
Taking over near midfield, the Bengals got going with two quick passes to Perine — adding up to 24 yards. They faced third and 7 soon after, where a simple dump off to Perine got the job done. A holding call set the Bengals back on the following play, but Cincinnati got it all back with passes — setting up at the eight-yard line in first and goal. From there, it just took a wide-open dump-off to backup running back Chris Evans, giving the Bengals a 27-24 lead.
With just over eight minutes to go, Kansas City took over with a three-point deficit — moving the chains twice by way of passes to Kelce. They got past midfield, using runs by both running backs to get a new set of downs. They got themselves into third and 3 soon after, where Mahomes couldn’t find anyone downfield and eventually took a sack. The Chiefs settled for a long field goal attempt, and it sailed wide right.
The Bengals had a chance to put the dagger in the coffin with the turnover on downs, earning two first downs with quick passes and taking advantage of bad tackling by the Chiefs. The Kansas City defense forced a third and 5, but Chase took a quick pass and avoided tackles to gain a back-breaking first down. Just before the two-minute warning, defensive end George Karlaftis wrapped up Burrow for a sack to force a third and 11.
Out of the break, Burrow stayed cool in a pressured pocket and found Higgins in tight coverage against Williams, resetting the downs and ending the game. The final score: Bengals 27, Chiefs 24.
Kicker Harrison Butker converted his first field goal attempt from 26 yards away in the first quarter. Butker made his first extra-point attempt, then nailed his second and third attempts at extra points in the third quarter. On a 55-yard attempt in the fourth quarter, Butker pushed the ball right.
Punter Tommy Townsend booted his first punt 55 yards in the second quarter.
Now the starting punt returner, wide receiver Justin Watson fair caught his first punt in the second quarter.
Kick returner Isiah Pacheco has 5 kickoff returns — the longest going 44 yards early in the third quarter.