Brown, Bengals O-line facing one of NFL’s top pass rushes

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI — Orlando Brown Jr. said he’s not worried about proving himself to his former team. There’s too much on the line for the Cincinnati Bengals left tackle to be thinking about anything but helping his current squad get a win.

The Bengals (8-7) travel to play the Kansas City Chiefs (9-6) on Sunday in a rematch of the last two AFC Championship games, and Cincinnati likely needs to win that and the regular-season finale against Cleveland to make the playoffs.

Brown was a part of both those conference championship games, but on the other side of the rivalry as part of a two-year stint in Kansas City before signing with the Bengals as a free agent this offseason.

“For me personally, just what’s at stake in terms of playoff contention and how important this game is for us as a team, that’s really what’s at the front of my mind,” Brown said. “Obviously, that was the organization that gave me an opportunity to be a left tackle in this league and help put me in position to be here. So, there is no animosity, but I’m super excited just for everything that’s at stake for us as a team.”

Brown said he is looking forward to seeing the Super Bowl banner he helped achieve last year with the Chiefs. He hasn’t been back to Arrowhead Stadium since departing for Cincinnati, but he’s anxious to be a part of championships with the Bengals.

A chance to improve the team’s playoff chances with a win at Kansas City is all that matters now.

“It means a lot, and I would say that, honestly, if we were going to Seattle, or San Francisco or whatever,” Brown said. “This is, you know, an important time of year. And that’s what makes these Bengals-Chiefs games so exciting and everything, just because the time of year and what’s at stake.”

The key to the game could come down to the play of the Bengals offensive line.

Kansas City has one of the top pass rushes in the league, and Chris Jones wrecked the AFC Championship game for Cincinnati last year. The Bengals had won three straight meetings against the Chiefs.

The defensive tackle recorded two sacks, three tackles for loss, five quarterback hits and 10 pressures, including delivering the final blow to Cincinnati’s attempt for a game-winning score in the final minute. His second sack of the game came on third-and-8 with 39 seconds left to force a punt.

“He’s arguably the top player as an interior defensive lineman,” Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. “Him and Aaron Donald probably are the two most disruptive guys that we’ve faced. … And he moves all over the place. He lines up left, he lines up right, he lines up on the edge. He’s a force. He’s hard to block one-on-one, and when he gets those opportunities, he tends to win most of them.”

The Bengals were missing three starters on their offensive line in that matchup, including both tackles and right guard Alex Cappa. Jones especially took advantage of that right side, and Hakeem Adeniji, filling in at right tackle, gave up three sacks that day.

Brown said Jones was due for a game like that. No one on his team was surprised by it.

“Just because you take it back to 2021, the AFC championship that the Bengals won, he was really disappointed in his effort and all those things, and so he took that offseason and that season really seriously last year for that moment and opportunity,” Brown said. “And, you know, as far as the bigs go, the line of scrimmage, we didn’t play well the first time we played here in Cincinnati last year. And so, it was a really big game for him going into the AFC Championship, just kind of, as I said, everything that was at stake and the previous years.”

Brown noted all five sets of eyes on the offensive line will have to stay on Jones because of how he moves around. He uses his “old-school-like body, just with his height and weight” to his advantage but also has skills and strong hands to go with that.

Cincinnati will have others to worry about as well. Left defensive end George Karlaftis leads the team with 9.0 sacks (Jones has 8.5) and right ends Mike Danna and Charles Omenihu have combined for 11.0 sacks.

The edge is where Brown can make a difference, as he tries to bounce back from a tough outing last week at Pittsburgh.

“He’s been really good,” Callahan said. “His veteran-ness, his leadership, his steadiness. He’s been a consistent performer, and he’s been one of the better linemen we’ve had in my time, so he’s been great. He’s brought a lot to us. He’s played well. He’s had stretches obviously. He’s battled through some things like all guys do. But he’s been really good for us and I’m happy we have him.”


Bengals at Chiefs, 4:25 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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