Many members of Chiefs Kingdom are pointing fingers at the officials for the Kansas City Chiefs‘ 34-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17. And to a point it’s merited.
One of the bigger mistakes by the Chiefs-Bengals officiating crew was at the beginning of the fourth quarter. On a 3rd-and-3 pass attempt by quarterback Joe Burrow to wide receiver Tee Higgins, Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, who seemingly did a great job of covering Higgins, was flagged for pass interference. That play gave the Bengals a first down instead of having to punt from their own 21-yard line.
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On the same drive, Burrow completed a pass to rookie Ja’Marr Chase on a 2nd-and-11 play, and Chase was brought down by Sneed after a five-yard pickup on what looked to be a clean tackle by Sneed. But the officials flagged Sneed for unnecessary roughness.
The next display of poor officiating which favored the Bengals was on the final drive of the game when Cincinnati was at Kansas City’s one-yard line. On 4th and goal, Burrow threw a pass to running back Joe Mixon, who was stopped short of the goal line. But the officials called holding penalties on both teams, which forced a replay of the down.
On the following play, Burrow threw an incomplete pass to wideout Tyler Boyd, who was being covered by Sneed. However, Sneed was flagged for illegal use of hands to the face, which gave Cincinnati a fresh set of downs with 45 seconds left in the game. From there, the Bengals drained the clock with kneel-downs and kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired.
Mathieu: ‘We Could Have Responded a Lot Better’
Despite what’s been debated as officiating in favor of the Bengals on several key plays in the fourth quarter, Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu isn’t making excuses for a Kansas City defense that could have played better.
“Piggyback off really what the theme was all week, and that was, ‘How are we going to respond when those guys make a big play?’ When things don’t go our way, and we can’t get off the field,” Mathieu said during his postgame press conference on Sunday, January 2. “This is a response-driven league, and I just don’t think we responded well enough today. I know some people will talk about certain calls that were made late in the game, and outside of that, I still feel we could have responded a lot better defensively.
“Hats off to those guys. They’ve got a really great, young core that can really play football, you know? Those guys were prepared; I just don’t think we responded the way we were prepared to respond.”
One of the Bengals players that torched the Chiefs’ secondary was rookie first-round pick Ja’Marr Chase, who caught 11 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns in Week 17.
When asked if the unit had discussed giving extra help to the defenders covering Chase, Mathieu said it really just came down to the basics as to why Kansas City didn’t contain the fellow LSU product.
“I thought he had a great game. I thought a lot of things went his way. A lot of balls he caught today, we could have been better as far as our angles to the completion point,” Mathieu said. “I didn’t think we tackled as well as we’ve been tackling the last couple of months, and any time you’re playing against a player like that, they’re going to expose you. If you’re having an off day, they’re going to be the reason you get exposed.”
Chiefs Preparing for Broncos
The Chiefs’ eight-game win streak came to an end in Week 17, and they were also de-throned as the No. 1 seed in the AFC courtesy of the Tennessee Titans. Now entering the regular-season finale as the No. 2 seed in the conference, Kansas City will face the division-rival Denver Broncos.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes says it shouldn’t be difficult for the defending AFC champions to turn the page and focus on finishing the regular season strong.
“After you lose a game like you lost it today, it shouldn’t be difficult to get ready to go again the next week. I think guys will be ready to go,” Mahomes said during his postgame press conference. “We’re playing Denver, and they’re a good football team. They gave us a challenge this last time we played them, like they always do, and we’re playing in Denver, which is a tough place to play. We’ll try to fix some things and play better football this next week.”
If Kansas City wins in Week 18 and the Titans lose, then the Chiefs can re-claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC. However, a loss for the Chiefs and/or a win for Tennessee will keep the Chiefs seated as the No. 2 seed entering the postseason.
The Titans close out their regular season facing the Houston Texans.