Sunday night Asian Championship The match was the biggest and hottest of recent times Kansas City Chiefs History. In it, they faced their own boogeyman: a Cincinnati Bengals A team that ended their 2021 season with an overtime defeat that was just one part of a bitter three-game losing streak.
Going into this we all felt a heightened sense of anxiety. It wasn’t just because it was a tough game against a very good team, but also because we were worried about the Kansas City quarterback. Then as the match went on, more injuries piled up. Legarius Snead, Cadarius Toney, Willie Jay Jr., Mikul Hardman, JoJo Smith-Schuster, Isiah Pacheco, Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith were among the Chiefs players who were attacked (or sidelined altogether) during Sunday night’s contest.
Then things got worse. Sometimes, the crime has stopped. The defense gave up two big games. And the chiefs turned the ball around. There were too many obstacles to victory – and fewer and fewer players available to overcome them; There were times that six rookies were on the field at one time. There were plenty of opportunities for the team to fall behind – and many excuses that would have been valid after a loss.
But in the end, everyone on the active roster—from star quarterback Patrick Mahomes to practice wide receiver Marcus Kemp—made plays when the team needed them most. As a result, the chiefs make another trip to power.
This is why this group is not our usual list of gainers and losers. Today, there are no losers among the presidents. All we can see are stories of redemption and triumph — the kind of things that legends and movies are made of. But Sunday night, it was all real — and it was all special.
Wide receiver Marques Valdes-Scantling: We have seen the negative side of the former Green Bay Packers Wide: The deep shot with no real chance of completing it. His often ineffective production has given him an up and down season. But with his teammates dropping left and right on Sunday, Valdez-Scantling put in a big performance. He led the team in goals (eight, along with tight end Travis Kelsey) and yards (116), while demonstrating his ability to play every wide receiver position. He got an amazing drop through traffic that caught Elite Focus. In fact, for this game, the speedy wide receiver appears to be locked in a way we haven’t seen all season.
Corner Buck Trent McDuffie: Undersized rookie corner who will take on Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd on the bigger stage? Yes… it’s hard. But McDuffie has once again shown that he’s a top-notch player – and one of the best picks in Kansas City’s stellar class of 2022. On the Bengals’ first drive, McDuffie snubbed Chase for a potential interception he couldn’t quite bring up. But he was able to hold on to every Cincinnati ball carrier across his path, like a veteran. McDuffie played tough coverage all night, finishing with six solo tackles (one for loss) and two passes defended. This game isn’t too big (or too fast) for this newbie—and on Sunday, make sure everyone knows it.
Edge Frank Clark: No Chiefs player takes more criticism than this eight-year-old veteran — but no one delivers in the playoffs like he does. The Shark smelled blood in the water against Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow and his backup offensive line. From the very beginning of driving, he went to work on it. Clark finished with 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hits and a tackle for a loss. He was a powerhouse in this game, solidifying his legacy as one of the three best postseason pass rushers in NFL history.
Defensive Tackle Chris Jones: It has long been a misconception that the seven-year-old veteran wasn’t able to make it in the postseason. But on Sunday any questions that may have remained were answered. Even with all the attention the Bengals have given, Jones was irrevocable—and this time, he showed up to box: five quarterback hits, three tackles for loss, and two sacks. No play was bigger than his sack on Boro’s last running back of the season. Jones was a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year. If he keeps this up, he’ll also be a finalist for Super Bowl MVP — and a huge new contract.
Placekicker Harrison Butker: It’s been a rough season for the longtime Kansas City professionals. After being injured in the opening week of the season (from a start on a poor pitch), he struggled to regain the form that had made him one of the best teams in the league. In 2022, he hit career highs after missed extra points and field goals, prompting the team to flirt with other practice squad players. But on the descent down the stretch, things finally seemed to click again. In the cold and windy conditions of the AFC title game, he was a perfect kicker: two goals for two on extra points and three goals for three on the field. With the game (and season) on the line, Butker drilled the game-winner from 45 yards, putting his team through to the Super Bowl and silencing any remaining doubters.
the About losers who will redeem themselves later
Wide receiver/returner Skyy Moore: The rookie’s first goal went three yards, the second (and third) he had no chance of completing, the fourth went two yards…well, you see the pattern here. Moore had seven scores on the night, yielding only 13 yards on three catches. He rarely seems to be on the same page with Mahomes. But with Isiah Pacheco and Kadarius Toney banged out, Moore returned to kick and point returner jobs—the same innings in which he failed miserably with disastrous turnovers earlier in the season. We held our collective breath when Moore fielded a punt in the third quarter and returned it 25 yards. Unfortunately, this one was called back on a penalty kick – but the next goal was not. With 41 seconds left – and the game tied – Moore pulled it off. His 29-yard punt return set up the game-winning field goal — and should be a huge confidence booster for the kid who should be a bigger part of the team’s plans in 2023.
Cornerback Joshua Williams: The Kansas City defense was formidable on Sunday, holding Boro and its receivers below their usual level of production. But when they did get their chances, it was often at Williams’ expense. Forced into action after veteran Larios Snead was injured, the rookie continued to battle against the Bengals’ physically imposing receivers. But when the game was tied midway through the fourth quarter, Williamsborough intercepted a ball thrown in the air. It was a big play at an important moment. Williams helped prevent the Bengals from regaining the momentum they needed.
Safety Brian Cook: The rookie committed two very costly penalties – but then in the fourth quarter, he signaled a Burrows pass into Williams’ hands. He’s another rookie defensive back who has seen his opportunity build up over the past few weeks – and he’s grown with it. For Cook, the future is bright. He’ll also have Sunday’s game to build on in 2023.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes: The MVP has no twice in the losers list. He was great against the Bengals, passing for 326 yards and two touchdowns on a bad ankle while throwing to a severely depleted receiving corps. It was easy to see the injury was excruciating for him as he tried to roll and lunge. But there was a moment—however brief—when it felt like everything was falling apart. It was a familiar point for Kansas City fans — especially against Cincinnati — when a promising performance would slide over a cliff. With a minute left in the third quarter, Mahomes again dropped to pass – but the ball slid wide. It popped into the air and the Bengals recovered it. At that moment, I felt like the season was over; The Bengals went on to score the game tying goal. But the defense held through the fourth quarter – and then the offense got the ball back with 30 seconds left, and there were only a few passes to get into goal range. On third and fourth, Mahomes saw an opening, ran down the sideline in the most five-yard scramble you will ever see. Somehow – on a day when Mahomes could be excellent while passing the ball on one leg – it was that leg that carried the team to victory.
Team coach Andy Reid: For the next two weeks, all we’ll hear about is what’s next Andy Redbull. The success Big Red has had since his days in Philadelphia through his contract in Kansas City is undeniable. His impact on this franchise, this city, and the entire NFL is as significant as anyone in the history of the league. Among his peers, he is known as an elite signal communicator who displays creativity that others copy each season. But every year, he’s also questioned about his co-play and in-game decisions. Getting the ball at the end of the first half, Kansas City had a double chance: the Chiefs would get the ball to start the second half. But the offense quickly fizzled out for a three and caught three consecutive incomplete passes, allowing Cincinnati to score a field goal. Then as the third quarter began, there were three more useless runs featuring low percentage run calls. Then—with 2:36 left on fourth-and-eight from Cincinnati’s 37-yard line, Reid elected to play. Again, viewers thought it was the season finale. The Bengals likely had plenty of time to run down the field for the game-winning score — while Mahomes watched helplessly from the sideline. But Reed’s judgment would be justified: his defense came up with big plays to get the ball back. Maybe we should stop questioning the coach – though it’s doubtful we ever will.