The Kansas City Chiefs went into Cincinnati to face the Bengals on Sunday in a game that was hyped up as one of the best of the year, and it definitely lived up to that. Both teams went blow-for-blow, but it was the Bengals that came out on top by a final score of 34-31.
Here are four takeaways from Sunday's game.
1. The Bengals are here to stay
Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and company are here, and they aren't going anywhere. Heading into the game, Cincinnati was criticized for not having many quality wins, being inconsistent throughout the season and not having enough defensive firepower to beat a team like the Chiefs. They managed to silence the critics on Sunday with a clutch performance against a premier opponent. It remains to be seen whether these two teams will square off again this season in the playoffs, but one thing is for sure: The Bengals aren't just a future contender, it looks like they're a current one, too.
2. Missed tackles and drops made the game difficult
A common theme this season for the Chiefs has been them making self-inflicted mistakes and costing themselves favorable opportunities. That was certainly the case against the Bengals. While the officiating was a legitimate concern during the game (I very rarely bring that up), the Chiefs needed to do a better job playing fundamentally sound football. They didn't wrap up, they got too physical at times and they also had a few key drops on offense. That made things much more difficult than they needed to be, and the combination of it all hindered the Chiefs all afternoon.
3. Patrick Mahomes' tremendous first half wasn't enough
Mahomes played one of his best halves of football in the opening 30 minutes against the Bengals, hitting throws with precision and finding a perfect balance between disciplined play and successful improvisation. In the second half, though, he wasn't anything special. The Chiefs' offensive plan of attack was rather vanilla, and the team scored just three points over the last two quarters. The loss doesn't fall on Mahomes's shoulders, but there were a few points in the third and fourth quarters where an MVP moment was expected. The Chiefs didn't get one of those.
4. The Chiefs' offensive depth did step up
Considering that Orlando Brown Jr. and Lucas Niang suffered injuries on game day, the Chiefs' offensive line shuffle was a massive success. Andrew Wylie didn't stand out a ton at right tackle, Nick Allegretti performed admirably and Joe Thuney thrived at left tackle after moving over from left guard. Elsewhere, backup running back Darrel Williams had one of the best games of his career in Clyde Edwards-Helaire's absence and second-string tight end Blake Bell made a few nice plays. Even Byron Pringle had another quality performance. The Chiefs are a deep team, and they showed why on Sunday — even in a loss.