Four Takeaways From the KC Chiefs’ 25-17 Win Over the Cincinnati Bengals

Four Takeaways From the KC Chiefs' 25-17 Win Over the Cincinnati Bengals
Four Takeaways From the KC Chiefs' 25-17 Win Over the Cincinnati Bengals

Four overarching thoughts on the Chiefs’ Week 17 matchup against the Bengals at home.

For the second week in a row, the Kansas City Chiefs had an opportunity to lock up the AFC West with a win. After a tumultuous first half against the Cincinnati Bengals, Andy Reid’s team eventually settled down and got the job done.

With a 25-17 victory over their conference rivals, Kansas City rises to 10-6 on the year and has officially punched its tickets to the postseason. Fueled by some timely plays on defense and just enough output from the offense and special teams groups, the Chiefs defended their turf in Week 17. Up next is a regular-season finale versus the Los Angeles Chargers, but not before the home team from this weekend celebrates a nice accomplishment.

Here are four takeaways, mostly in order of events, from Sunday’s game.

Cincinnati dominated possession early on
Over the past decade or so, there’s been an ongoing argument surrounding time of possession and its impact on winning. In the Patrick Mahomes era, the common argument was that the best defense against the Chiefs was to milk long drives on offense and keep the two-time NFL MVP off the field. With the Kansas City offense not being as potent as usual this season, however, it gets in its own way often enough to throw that to the wayside more. Cincinnati did a good job limiting their chances anyway in the first half just for good measure.

In the opening half of play, Jake Browning and company held the ball for just under 22 minutes compared to the Chiefs’ 8:10. A lot of that was due to going 7-for-9 on third downs. Despite averaging just 4.5 yards per play, 14 first downs stemmed from chain-moving plays by the quarterback and his pass-catchers. The “death by a thousand papercuts” mantra was the home team’s reality in quarters one and two. It led to 17 points in the process.

Four Takeaways From the KC Chiefs' 25-17 Win Over the Cincinnati Bengals
Four Takeaways From the KC Chiefs’ 25-17 Win Over the Cincinnati Bengals

Mistakes cost the Chiefs plenty of opportunities in the first half
Speaking of first-half averages, the Chiefs’ offense was mostly effective on a per-play basis. Gaining 163 yards and posting 8.6 yards per play, they were moving the ball and putting up at least somewhat of a fight. Unfortunately for them, left tackle Wanya Morris got beat on the club’s second offensive drive and the play ended with a strip-sack by Trey Hendrickson on Mahomes. A 13-point output in the opening two frames wasn’t the end of the world, although it may have been even more had a turnover not taken place.

The miscues didn’t stop there, though. On the fourth offensive possession, center Creed Humphrey committed a false start penalty and wideout Marquez Valdes-Scantling dropped a would-be first down. On defense, L’Jarius Sneed was flagged for defensive pass interference that extended a Cincinnati drive deep in Chiefs territory. It ended in a touchdown. A theme of the Chiefs’ 2023 season has been making life more difficult for themselves, which was again the case early in Sunday’s game.

Shoutouts to Steve Spagnuolo’s defense and Isiah Pacheco
For a defense that hasn’t given up many points this year, surrendering 17 of them to an offense led by a backup quarterback is a bad look. Luckily for Steve Spagnuolo’s unit, several big-time plays were made in the second half of play. Cincinnati’s first three drives coming out of the locker room ended in a turnover on downs and two punts. Players like Willie Gay Jr., Mike Danna and Nick Bolton all stepped up. After kicker Harrison Butker (who deserves a shout for his excellent game) gave the Chiefs a five-point lead, the defense was once again asked to deliver. With a huge sack by George Karlaftis and Charles Omenihu, they did just that. The defense also slammed the door completely shut at the end.

On the other side of the ball, what a return it was for Isiah Pacheco. Kansas City’s second-year man missed consecutive games with a shoulder ailment and then was forced out of Week 16’s loss to the Las Vegas Raiders with a concussion. Just a day after clearing concussion protocol, the team’s leading rusher was fantastic. Going over the 100-yard mark overall and helping run some clock in the second half, the former seventh-round pick played well above his draft slot in Week 17. He played a critical role in the win.

The Chiefs are AFC West champions once again
With the Las Vegas Raiders getting eliminated earlier in the day, all the Chiefs had to worry about was the Denver Broncos. While Sean Payton’s club was able to win against the Los Angeles Chargers in the same late-afternoon window as Kansas City, it didn’t matter. With their triumph over Cincinnati, the Chiefs are in the playoffs as the AFC West’s representative once again.

This is the Chiefs’ eighth division title in a row, making it the second-longest streak for any team in NFL history. Additionally, nine playoff berths in a row are tied for the second-most consecutive ones all-time. To cap things off, Kansas City’s ninth season in a row with double-digit wins is tied for the third-best consecutive total ever. It’s been a trying season for the Chiefs relative to expectations, but it’s still worth noting that their continued excellence division-wide isn’t normal. Reid has provided the franchise with consistency and success that’s hard to match. Sunday was another reminder of that.