By MITCH STACY AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Burrow got a huge assist from his defense in another riveting duel with Patrick Mahomes.
With the Chiefs leading Burrow’s Bengals 24-20 early in in the fourth quarter on Sunday, Mahomes hooked up with Travis Kelce, who rumbled for a big gain. But while Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt and other defenders were wrestling Kelce to the ground, Pratt forced the ball free and recovered the ensuing fumble.
Burrow took it from there, completing 6 of 7 passes during a 53-yard drive that he finished with a go-ahead 8-yard touchdown to backup running back Chris Evans. The Bengals’ defense held Kansas City scoreless from there and Burrow closed out a 27-24 victory over the Chiefs.
“He’s playing at an MVP level – absolutely,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “He gives us a lot of confidence.”
The Bengals (8-4) have won four straight overall and their last three meetings with Kansas City (9-3) — all in the same calendar year. Cincinnati won on Jan. 2 to clinch the AFC North title. Four weeks later, the Bengals beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in overtime — also by a 27-24 score — to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in 33 years.
This time, Burrow finished 25 of 31 with two touchdowns and ran in for a 4-yard score to get the Bengals on the board in the first quarter. He concluded his day by converting two third downs on passes to Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, allowing the Bengals to run out the clock.
“We left some points on the field, but we still find a way to win,” Burrow said. “We’ve still got five weeks left. Let’s keep this train rolling. This team knows what it takes to win these games. We’ve been there. It’s December. It’s time to separate ourselves.”
Cincinnati running back Samaje Perine, subbing again for Joe Mixon (concussion), ran for a season-high 106 yards on 21 tough carries.
Mahomes was 16 for 27 for 223 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score. But the Chiefs fell short on their final possession when Joseph Ossai sacked Mahomes on third-and-3 from the Bengals 33, and Harrison Butker missed a 55-yard field goal wide right.
“We started off slow, we got back in the game, into the flow of things and (then) we had a turnover late and a missed kick,” Mahomes said. “In the fourth quarter, those are the things that kind of bite you at the end.”
Cincinnati led for the entire the first half and took a 14-10 advantage into the locker room.
Mahomes led Kansas City on two methodical third-quarter drives that ended in touchdowns — an 8-yard-run by Isiah Pacheco and a 3-yard scramble by the multi-talented QB — while the Bengals had to settle for a pair of field goals. That gave the Chiefs a 24-20 lead that held until the turnover and subsequent Cincinnati TD.
Chase, in his return after missing four games with a hip injury, had seven receptions for 97 yards. He was also flagged for taunting after getting in the face of Chiefs defenders after Higgins caught a 12-yard TD pass to push Cincinnati’s first-half lead to 14-3.
“I was surprised at how quickly he was looking like the same Ja’Marr, even in practice last week,” Taylor said. “He’s a freak.”
Bengals TE Hayden Hurst suffered a right calf injury in the first half and was ruled out. … Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Mahomes “hurt his foot there at the end of the game, but he’s going to be OK.”
Reid defended his decision to attempt a long field goal that would have tied the game instead of keeping Mahomes on the field.
“If I don’t think he’s going to make that, I’m not going to do it,” Reid said. “It’s pretty simple. I feel like (Butker) has been in a good place, and we just have to execute it better all the way around. It really shouldn’t come down to that, but it did.”
Chiefs: At Denver next Sunday.
Bengals: Host Cleveland next Sunday.
By MITCH STACY AP Sports Writer