Burrowhead Stadium? Confident Bengals talking big game
Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton looked into the camera toward the end of his team’s playoff win in Buffalo last Sunday and said, “We’ll see you all in Burrowhead.”
Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium is the site of the AFC Championship Game for the fifth straight year. But Hilton gave a shout-out to Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow while throwing a little gas on Kansas City’s fire in the process.
Burrow’s Bengals haven’t lost an AFC playoff game the last two years and are 3-0 against Kansas City in the last year-plus.
Those feats have the Bengals feeling confident that they can end Kansas City’s season in the AFC title game for the second consecutive year.
“I just look in everybody’s eyes right now and I can sense that my dogs are ready,” Bengals running back Joe Mixon said. “Last week, you just look around the locker room and you just know them boys [were] ready. I feel like right now we’re more than ready to seize this opportunity. Come Sunday we got to go do it.”
The Bengals, who lost to the Rams in the Super Bowl last year, have embraced the role of being the overlooked team during their last two playoff runs. It’s fueled them.
They were nearly a touchdown underdog in Buffalo last week, a game they dominated from the start in a 27-10 win. If Buffalo had advanced to face Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game, it would have been played at a neutral site, and when asked about the NFL selling advance tickets to that game in Atlanta, Burrow said: “Better send those refunds.’’
During the game, after the usually even-keeled Burrow threw a touchdown pass and Hilton greeted him near the sideline, the quarterback shouted, “I’m Him!”
Burrow downplayed uttering that phrase, which essentially means he can’t be stopped.
“Did I say that?” he said. “Sometimes you black out out there.”
Burrow exudes confidence, though, and for good reason.
He is a finalist for the MVP award, which Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes is expected to win. Burrow, who threw 35 touchdown passes in the regular season, has led the Bengals to 10 consecutive wins. He’s 5-0 in the AFC playoffs the past two seasons and the only quarterback to beat Mahomes three straight times.
Burrow is confident that he can extend those streaks.
“We know what team we’re playing, a team that’s been to this game the last five seasons,” Burrow said. “They’ve all been in that stadium. To me they’re still the team to beat and we’re coming for them. But we know it’s going to be tough.”
The Bengals have been talking with much more bravado than Kansas City. The “Burrowhead” comment definitely got the players’ attention. Defensive tackle Chris Jones ended his Friday news conference by saying, “See you all in Burrowhead Stadium.”
Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor doesn’t necessarily mind the bulletin-board type of talk, especially when his team backs it up.
“I want our players to have that confidence that leads to that edge,” Taylor said. “They’re not afraid of anybody. They know they put in the work. They know they belong on the field with everybody.”
They also know their AFC Championship Game opponent very well. Both teams have that familiarity with each other.
This will be the fourth time they play each other since Jan. 2, 2022. They know what to expect, and they also know to anticipate some wrinkles.
“It’s one of the those teams you have to be prepared for everything,” Burrow said.
Kansas City had the No. 1 offense in the NFL during the regular season, but the Bengals can be explosive. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins were 1,000-yard receivers this season and No. 3 Tyler Boyd is a former 1,000-yard receiver. Mixon and Samaje Perine have been effective running the ball and catching it out of the backfield.
“I just think this year we’re a much more complete team from top to bottom,” Burrow said.
Chase has been a major weapon in his two NFL seasons. The Bengals have found different ways to utilize him, too. They’ve lined him up in the backfield, the outside and in the slot. Chase has four touchdowns in three games against Kansas City.
“You can double him, you can cloud him, you can have a guy follow him, he’s going to get his,” Burrow said. “You just got to find a way to get him touches because of how dynamic he is with the ball in his hands.”
Mixon and Perine led a 174-yard rushing attack last week to win in snowy Buffalo. Mixon didn’t play in the Bengals’ Week 13 win over Kansas City when Cincinnati rang up 152 yards on the ground, with Perine rushing for 106.
The Bengals have made a strong case that they shouldn’t be overlooked anymore. They won’t be with another win at Arrowhead.
“We know what to expect and we know how to come out victorious and what it’s going to take,” Mixon said. “Lean on your teammates. Stay poised in the noise, that’s just what it’s going to be.”