Cincinnati Bengals News: Hosts explosive Chiefs in Week 17; can clinch AFC North with win

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.

Television: The game will air nationally on CBS-TV. In the Bengals’ home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Tony Romo (analyst) and Tracy Wolfson (sideline reporter).

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).

The game also will air nationally on ESPN Radio. Broadcasters are Chris Carlin (play-by-play) and Sal Paolantonio (analyst).

Setting the scene: The Bengals on Sunday face the Kansas City Chiefs, owners of the AFC’s best record (11-4), in what will be Cincinnati’s regular-season home finale. Cincinnati can clinch the AFC North title with a win this weekend, while Kansas City — which already has the AFC West title wrapped up — is looking to hang on to the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff picture.

Last week, the Bengals boosted their postseason prospects with a record-setting 41-21 win over the division-rival Baltimore Ravens.

“This was a really good win,” said Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. “We’ve kind of gotten beaten up on over the last few years, but our guys just have all the confidence in the world right now. And they’re not done yet.”

Cincinnati’s offense stole the show against Baltimore. QB Joe Burrow passed for a career-high 525 yards, the most leaguewide this season, most-ever by a Bengal and fourth-most in NFL history (see “Burrow’s big days vs. Ravens” on page 6). He also posted career-highs in passer rating (143.2), TD passes (four) and yards per pass attempt (11.4), and tied a career-high with 37 completions. Burrow’s 941 passing yards against Baltimore this season are the most-ever against a single opponent in one regular season (49ers QB Joe Montana had 874 against the Falcons in 1990, and Dolphins QB Dan Marino had 874 against the Jets in 1988).

“I really don’t think about the yards too much,” Burrow said. “I’m just as happy throwing for 130 yards against the Raiders and going out and winning the game. Whatever it takes to win a game. Today, it took 525 yards, but some games it only takes a couple hundred yards.”

The Bengals came away with points on each of their first seven drives (five TDs, two FGs); that streak was snapped only by a missed FG late in the fourth quarter. HB Joe Mixon scored two TDs — one rushing, one receiving — giving him 16 for the season, one shy of former Bengals WR Carl Pickens’ team record of 17, set in 1995 (see “Mixon nearing TD record” on page 5). Thirteen of Mixon’s TDs this season have come on the ground, and he stands just two shy of tying former Bengals RB Ickey Woods’ team record of 15 rushing TDs, set in 1988 (see “Mixon shuffling toward Ickey’s record” on page 5).

Baltimore entered the game with double-digit players missing due to injuries and COVID-19, and Cincinnati’s offense took full advantage. In addition to Mixon’s aforementioned TDs, he topped 100 yards from scrimmage (135) for the sixth time this season. Second-year WR Tee Higgins had the most productive day of his young career, with 12 catches (tied for second-most in team history) for 194 yards and two TDs. Rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase tied A.J. Green’s team rookie record with his fourth 100-yard receiving performance (125) of the season. And WR Tyler Boyd had 85 yards receiving, including a 68-yard TD that he punctuated with a flip into the end zone. Boyd, Mixon and Higgins were the first trio of Bengals to catch passes of 50 or more yards in a game since Nov. 17, 1968 at Miami.

“We’re just a good team,” Burrow said. “We’ve got Joe Mixon, we’ve got all those receivers, and we’ve got an o-line that’s playing really well. Teams are going to have to pick their poison with us. We’ve had some games where we haven’t quite executed the way we wanted, but we’ve also had some games like today where we’ve executed better.”

Baltimore was missing its top two QBs — Lamar Jackson (ankle) and Tyler Huntley (COVID-19) — so it turned to veteran and former Bengal Josh Johnson as its starter. Johnson, who earlier this season briefly played against Cincinnati as a member of the N.Y. Jets, became the first player ever to throw a pass against the Bengals for two different teams in one season.

But while Cincinnati’s defense did allow 304 passing yards to Johnson, it did its job by maintaining at least a two-score margin for much of the game. The primary storyline on defense, though, was the continued impact of DE Trey Hendrickson, who had the Bengals’ only sack of the day. Hendrickson now has at least a half sack in 11 consecutive games, tied for the second-longest such streak in NFL history and just one game shy of the league record (see “Hendrickson’s sack streak at 11” on page 8). His sack also gave him 14 for the season, the second-most in team history (see “Trey’s 14 sacks second-most by a Bengal” on page 8).

“I don’t play for those kinds of things,” Hendrickson said of his numbers. “I’m a product of this defense. I’m a product of good coaching. I’m a product of hard work. Anything that comes to me is just a byproduct of all those things.

“It’s not just me. Sacks can’t come if we’re not having coverage, and so I can’t say enough about the guys in the back end. The guys I’m rushing with on the defensive line, they’re giving me opportunities to have success.”

This week’s potential division-clinching game against the Chiefs figures to be one of the most highly anticipated Bengals games since Cincinnati’s last division title in 2015. Only four current Bengals were with the team in 2015 — C Trey Hopkins (on practice squad in ’15), TE C.J. Uzomah, P Kevin Huber and LS Clark Harris — and only nine predate Taylor’s arrival in ’19.

Kansas City has won eight straight games, and last week beat Pittsburgh 36-10. The Bengals are 4-2 all time when both they and their opponent are coming off wins of at least 20 points.

“We know how big of a test this Kansas City game is coming up this weekend,” Taylor said. “It’s far and away the biggest game of the year for us. We’re going to do a great job of getting rested and getting our best focus. We’ve got a huge challenge coming to town, and our guys are going to be ready for it.”

The series: The Bengals lead the series 15-14 overall and have won four of the last five meetings. The Bengals are 8-5 as the home team and have won all four previous meetings at Paul Brown Stadium, as well as five straight in Cincinnati overall dating back to 1987.

The team’s first matchup at Paul Brown Stadium in 2003 was memorable, as a 4-5 Bengals club toppled a 9-0 Chiefs squad 24-19 during Marvin Lewis’ first season as head coach.

The Bengals’ first game of any kind was against the Chiefs, in Cincinnati’s inaugural preseason contest, played Aug. 3, 1968 at Nippert Stadium on the University of Cincinnati campus. The Chiefs won, 38-14.

The Bengals began regular-season play in 1968 as co-members with Kansas City in the American Football League’s Western Division, and the teams played each other twice in both 1968 and ’69.

Bengals single-season records watch: Here’s a look at the team records (and rookie records) that could fall this season.

  • QB Joe Burrow has 336 completions, 37 shy of Carson Palmer’s team record of 373 (set in 2007).
  • Burrow has passed for 4165 yards, 128 shy of Andy Dalton’s team record of 4293 (set in 2013).
  • Burrow has 30 passing TDs, three shy of Dalton’s record of 33 in 2013.
  • Burrow has five games 300-yard passing games, tied for the team record (shared by Burrow in 2020, Carson Palmer in ’07 and Andy Dalton in ’13).
  • Burrow has a 105.0 passer rating, just shy of Andy Dalton’s team record of 106.3 (set in 2015).
  • Burrow has a 69.85 completion percentage, just shy of Ken Anderson’s team record of 70.55 (set in 1982).
  • WR Ja’Marr Chase has 1163 receiving yards, 277 shy of Chad Johnson’s team record of 1440 (set in 2007).
  • HB Joe Mixon has 16 total TDs, one shy of Carl Pickens’ team record of 17 (set in 1995).
  • Mixon has 13 rushing TDs, two shy of Ickey Woods’ team record of 15 (set in 1988).
  • Mixon has 1159 rushing yards, 299 shy of Rudi Johnson’s team record of 1458 (set in 2005).
  • K Evan McPherson has scored 120 points, 12 shy of Mike Nugent’s team record of 132 (set in 2011).
  • McPherson has made 26 FGs, seven shy of Nugent’s team record of 33 (set in 2011).
  • WRs Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins both have four 100-yard receiving games, two shy of A.J. Green’s team record of six (set in 2013).
  • The Bengals have scored 410 points, 38 shy of the team record of 448 (set in 1988).
  • The Bengals have 41 sacks, 10 shy of the team record of 51 (set in 2012).
  • DE Trey Hendrickson has 14 sacks, second-most in team history. Sacks became an official statistic in 1982, however the Bengals tracked that stat back to 1976, therefore the team recognizes DE Coy Bacon’s 22 sacks in ’76 as the team record. Hendrickson, though, has the most sacks by a Bengal since 1982, and thus the NFL notes him as the record-holder for their information.

Single-season records already broken: Here’s a look at the single-season Bengals records that have already fallen this season.

  • WR Ja’Marr Chase has 10 receiving TDs this season, the most by a rookie in team history. WR Isaac Curtis (nine) had the previous rookie record.
  • Chase has 68 receptions this season, most-ever by a Bengals rookie. Cris Collinsworth (1981) and Tee Higgins (2020) are now in second, with 67.
  • Chase has 1163 receiving yards, most-ever by a Bengals rookie. A.J. Green’s 1057 receiving yards (set in 2011) are now second.
  • Chase has four 100-yard receiving games this season, tied with Green (2011) for most-ever by a Bengals rookie.
  • K Evan McPherson has made nine FGs of 50 or more yards, the most in team history. Horst Muhlmann (four in 1970) was the previous record-holder.

Bengals-Chiefs connections: Chiefs TE Travis Kelce played at the University of Cincinnati … Chiefs OL Joe Thuney is from Centerville, Ohio (Archbishop Alter High School) … Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy played for the Bengals from 1995-98 … Bengals head coach Zac Taylor played QB at Butler County (Kan.) Community College in 2004 … Bengals G Hakeem Adeniji and WR Pooka Williams (practice squad) both played at the University of Kansas … Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire played in college at Louisiana State University with Bengals QB Joe Burrow, WR Ja’Marr Chase, DT Tyler Shelvin and TE Thaddeus Moss (practice squad) … Bengals DE Wyatt Hubert (Reserve/Non-Football Injury) is from Topeka, Kan. (Shawnee Heights High School) and played at Kansas State University … Chiefs WR Gehrig Dieter (practice squad) played at Bowling Green State University from 2013-15 (later transferred to Alabama) … Chiefs DB Devon Key (practice squad) is from Lexington, Ky. (Bryan Station High School) … Chiefs DT Cortez Broughton (practice squad) played at the University of Cincinnati … Bengals assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons is from Elkhart, Kan. … Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo coached at Bowling Green State University from 1996-97 … Chiefs linebackers coach Matt House coached at the University of Kentucky from 2016-18 … Chiefs assistant strength and conditioning/sport science coach Ryan Reynolds coached at the University of Louisville in 2008.

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