Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd called this week’s matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs a “Manning and Brady” game.
Two of the league’s current top quarterbacks face off Sunday when Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes take the field at Paycor Stadium for their third meeting this calendar year. Burrow and the Bengals prevailed, 34-31, in an AFC North-clinching 2021 regular-season matchup Jan. 2 in Cincinnati, and they beat the Chiefs again, 27-24, in the AFC Championship four weeks later.
Evan McPherson kicked game-winning field goals in both -- as time expired in the regular-season game and in overtime of the conference championship after Vonn Bell intercepted Mahomes to give the Bengals a chance to win the next drive.
“It goes down to both the quarterbacks,” Boyd said. “I think these are the two best quarterbacks in the league, at least in the top three, whatever. Yeah, it’s gonna be a high-power offensive game and just a game period, but I think we have the edge still because our defense has always played dominant in crucial moments, and they’ve been playing dominant all year. With them being banged up, you know, we still got guys that can come in and fill voids, just keep picking up where guys left off.”
The Chiefs (9-2) have the top-scoring offense in the league (29.6 points per game), and Mahomes has an NFL-leading 3,585 yards passing and 29 touchdowns. Cincinnati (7-4) ranks fifth in scoring offense (25.9 points per game) and has steadily been on the rise, Burrow’s 3,160 yards passing rank third most in the league – just ahead of Tom Brady.
Asked which quarterback is most like Peyton Manning and which one is most like Brady, Boyd clarified that he wouldn’t compare Burrow and Mahomes to those two greats on an individual level, but Burrow and Mahomes are well on their way to similar careers. Mahomes holds the record for fewest games needed to reach 10,000 career passing yards, achieving that in 34 games, while Burrow is third on the list, doing it in 36 games.
If Boyd had to label them, Burrow would be “whoever got the most wins” because he is “two up” in matchups with Mahomes. Brady has 248 career wins, while Manning, inducted into the Hall of Fame last year, finished with 186 wins. Burrow still has all of his same weapons in the receiving corps as last season, assuming Ja’Marr Chase returns from his hip injury as expected, while the Chiefs lost Tyreek Hill and replaced him with JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Tight end Travis Kelce leads Kansas City with 912 receiving yards. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is on injured reserve. Isiah Pacheco leads the team with 455 yards rushing.
Boyd said the key to victory Sunday is avoiding turnovers. That proved to be a difference in the AFC Championship last season when the Bengals had one turnover, but Kansas City turned the ball over twice. B.J. Hill picked off Mahomes in the third quarter, setting up the final touchdown drive of the game to tie it at 21, and Bell had the crucial pick in overtime. Sam Hubbard also sacked Mahomes and forced a fumble for a 17-yard loss on a third down play that limited Kansas City to a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation.
“The turnovers mattered,” Boyd said. “Our defense got turnovers in crucial moments and got us chances to put the ball in our hands to seal the deal. Protecting the football, whoever takes more advantage of opportunities on offense will be the winner. Whoever turns the ball over the most falls behind.”
The Bengals are at plus-1 in takeaway difference, while the Chiefs are at minus-3, ranking among the bottom eight in that category. Cincinnati’s defense ranks among the top half of the league in points allowed (21.0), passing yards allowed (216.0 per game) and rushing yards allowed (112.0 per game), but Kansas City only bests those numbers in the run defense category, holding opponents to a fifth-lowest 102.0 rushing yards per game.
Defensive tackle Chris Jones leads the Chiefs with 10.0 sacks and 16 quarterback hits, former Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap adds 4.0 sacks, and cornerback J’Jarius Sneed has 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor said some different personnel on Kansas City’s defense, particularly in the secondary, makes this matchup different from 2021, but Boyd and safety Vonn Bell said the timing of this game feels a lot like the two against Kansas City last year.
“It feels like we always we keep on seeing them at the right time, but it’s just the nature of the business,” Bell said. “It’s two explosive teams trying to win at the right pivotal time going into December and that’s where the ball games are won and seasons are won and lost, so we always seeing them at the right time so it feels that way (like a budding rivalry), but we will see. We’re excited for the challenge this week for sure.”
Chiefs at Bengals, 4:25 p.m., Ch. 7, 12; 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7
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