Going into Sunday’s bout between Kansas City and Cincinnati, many in the national media were wondering how Cincinnati would be able to keep up. Sure, the Bengals beat the Chiefs twice this past January, including in the AFC Championship, but this is a new season, and many still have bad memories of Burrow’s putrid start against Pittsburgh and, more recently, poor performance against Cleveland at the front of their minds. Meanwhile, the Chiefs had not lost a game in November or December since November 10, 2019…when Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase were still lighting it up in Baton Rouge. Even with the game being in Cincinnati, Kansas City seemed to have the edge based on their 2022 performance.
All of that went out the window as soon as Cincinnati took their first offensive snap. Burrow and his crew were able to move the ball up and down the field with ease against Kansas City’s defense, punting only once in the entire game and only failing to score on three drives (the punt, a turnover on downs deep in Chiefs’ territory, and the kneel out to end the game). Every point proved pivotal, as Burrow and Mahomes went back and forth all afternoon in a show of offensive fireworks in the Queen City. It was the third instant classic of 2022 between these two teams, and it was also the third time the Bengals emerged victorious.
Burrow and The Bengals Seem To Have The Chiefs Figured Out Like No Other Team Does
There are only two quarterbacks in the NFL that have beaten Mahomes three times; Tom Brady, who is 3-3, and now Joe Burrow, who has never lost to his Chiefs’ team. That’s right, Josh Allen, who is often anointed as Mahomes’s biggest QB rival in the AFC, has only beaten Mahomes twice, and is winless versus him in the playoffs. It’s also worth noting that all three of Burrow’s wins against Mahomes have been fourth-quarter comebacks, as Burrow has been able to put the Bengals on his back and carry them to victory when they needed it most. That was none more evident than on his third and eleven throws to Tee Higgins.
On 3rd & 11 with 1:59 left in regulation, Joe Burrow found Tee Higgins in a tight window for 14 yards and a first down, sealing a @Bengals win. 🔸 Time to Throw: 2.70 seconds 🔸 Burrow Under Pressure 🔸 Target Separation: 0.5 yards#KCvsCIN | #RuleTheJungle pic.twitter.com/PWMHBWokmr — Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 5, 2022
With pressure right in his face and almost no space to complete the pass, Burrow delivered an absolute dime to Higgins, who has emerged as a top-ten receiver in the NFL the past several weeks in Chase’s absence. The level of difficulty on this throw, in that moment, would have broken most quarterbacks; we saw it break Andy Dalton on Monday Night Football against the Buccaneers. However, Burrow seems to thrive in these spots; when the moment is brightest, he delivers the plays that win Cincinnati games. However, the fact that he does so against the team, and quarterback, that has dominated the rest of the league for the past five years might be what matters the most.
Burrow and Mahomes Might Be The Best Two Quarterbacks In the League Right Now
Prior to this game, and even after, Patrick Mahomes was the betting favorite to win the NFL MVP award for the second time in his career, and it would be well-deserved. He played mistake-free football on Sunday against Cincinnati, throwing for 223 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals with no turnovers. Prior to this game, he had not thrown less than 300 yards in a game since October 10 against Las Vegas, a game in which he threw for four touchdowns. He has thrown for more yards (3,808) and touchdowns (30) than any quarterback in the league, and with only eight interceptions on the year, he has cut down the turnovers that hurt him last year.
However, Joe Burrow, while not getting the same love from Vegas, has been right there with him. Burrow ranks second in yardage (3,446) and is tied for second in touchdowns with Allen (25). He has taken 34 sacks as opposed to Mahomes’s 19, a part of Burrow’s game that is still a work in progress but has improved significantly over the past five weeks. Indeed, with respect to Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow are the two best quarterbacks in the NFL this year, and Tyler Boyd very astutely compared the duo to the 2000s legacy rivalry of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
Tyler Boyd on Bengals-Chiefs becoming a rivalry: “It goes back to the quarterback thing. I look at it like Manning vs Brady.” — Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) November 28, 2022
Cutting Josh Allen out of this argument altogether does feel somewhat disingenuous, and no disrespect should is meant to other great AFC quarterbacks like Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa, and Lamar Jackson. However, the level that Burrow and Mahomes are playing at right now is on another level. What’s most interesting is how different their playstyles are. Mahomes is famous for his mind-bending throws that seem to defy physics, while Burrow wins as perhaps the best pure precision passer the league has seen since Brady was in his prime. Josh Allen might be the Ben Roethlisberger in this Brady-Manning equation, which isn’t a slight; Big Ben did win two Super Bowls in Pittsburgh, something Buffalo would certainly take.
The Bengals And Chiefs Are Likely On A Collision Course For Another Playoff Classic
The Bengals have firmly established themselves as a top-three team in the AFC, only behind Mahomes’ Chiefs and Allen’s Bills. Come playoff time, the duels we see between these three quarterbacks, both this year and for years to come, will be nothing short of incredible. All three of these quarterbacks bring different things to the table, but something Mahomes and Burrow do better than Allen, which leads me to trust them a bit more than him, is avoid turnovers; both have only thrown eight interceptions on the season to Allen’s eleven, and you can see that disparity reflected in QB rating, where he is well behind the other two.
Before this turns into a Josh Allen hit piece, which I assure you it is not, I want to get to the main point; Burrow and Mahomes will face off again this season in the playoffs, and that duel will be legendary. Burrow will have a chance to be the first quarterback to beat Mahomes four times, while Mahomes will have a chance to reclaim his crown and get the tiger off his back. Whether that is another AFC Championship or a Divisional matchup that determines who plays Buffalo I cannot say, but we are seeing the birth of a truly special NFL rivalry that will certainly play a role in the Super Bowl race each and every year.