Eli Apple came damn close to achieving the impossible this season: Making the Bengals unlikeable. His penchant for undeserved trash talk, paired with ceaselessly mocking the Buffalo Bills on Twitter following their playoff game meant that there was definitely a segment of people who wanted to see Cincinnati lose only so Apple could get his comeuppance from him.
And my goodness, were people ready to oblige. From the second the AFC Championship ended “Eli Apple” was trending, and after a couple of hours of endless mentions, mockery, and asking when Eli was heading to Cancun after suggesting a week ago that the Bills do the same. It wasn’t long that his mom couldn’t take it anymore.
“Made your mom delete Twitter” is a level of absolute and complete destruction only the Chiefs were capable of, and they were more than glad to put it all together. Truth be told, I’m not sure Kansas City really deserved to win on Sunday night — neither team did. It was simply a case of the Chiefs managed to hold on and make a few pivotal plays when they mattered the most. It was also about what they didn’t do in contrast to the Bengals, and we’ll circle back to Joseph Ossai’s unfortunate game-ending play later.
Nobody in Cincinnati should be ashamed of what the Bengals achieved this season, outside of Eli Apple who should remain shamed. This team managed to overcome a Super Bowl hangover and pull together once more for a deep run which was only a play or two away from returning to the big game for the second straight year.
It feels like we’re running all this back, unlike other teams that have been bounced from the playoffs. Buffalo has some soul searching to do, and some aging players to boot. The 49ers are going to need to address their QB position and rework the roster themselves.
For the Bengals it’s really pretty simple: Just do this all again, and don’t screw up.
When the dust settled the story of why the Chiefs won is the same as why they’ve been winning for years no. They have Patrick Mahomes, and you don’t. There’s only so much you can do against a passer that functionally perfect where even in the cold, and blistering winds, and without the support of a run game he’s still going to throw for over 300 yards, not throw a pick, and make all the plays he needs to in order to make it to the Super Bowl.
This has been Mahomes’ best season as a quarterback, because in many ways it’s the first year he’s really faced adversity. Losing Tyreek Hill, being forced to retool the passing attack and routing the entire offense though Travis Kelce, and looking beyond the hashmarks as more of an afterthought were all new experiences for Mahomes in 2022 — and week after week he picked apart opposing defenses with his less-than-stellar cast of characters.
I don’t know if it’ll be enough to beat the Eagles. Philadelphia is a more complete football team across all three phases, but the Chiefs still have Patrick Mahomes. We can analyze what it would take to drag Philly into deep water and turn this game into a shootout — and whether the Eagles could hang in an offensive game like that, but for now let’s just appreciate that Mahomes’ wife is dunking on Eli Apple too .
Winner: BJ Hill
It takes a lot for me to gasp at a football play, but I made all sorts of sounds when Joseph Ossai pushed Patrick Mahomes while out of bounds and was flagged for unnecessary roughness. It was the immediate, visceral understanding in real time of a player making the biggest mistake of his career — and he knew what happened.
People will argue whether it was a soft call to begin with, but it doesn’t change anything. NFL officiating is trash, and there were much worse calls in the game that whether or not it was truly an intentional hit out of bounds.
Why BJ Hill is a winner is for how he stood by his young teammate at the worst time of his professional life and tried to ensure he wasn’t alone.
Such a class act.
Winner: Andy Reid… also Andy Reid getting bailed out
Firstly, Andy Reid proved once again how damn good he is. Secondly, boy oh boy did Andy Reid get bailed out of a potential nightmare scenario for a coach. We were so close to the talk of the game not being a late hit OOB, or even Eli Apple being a fool, but the decision to short punt late in the game.
KC decided to punt to CIN from the CIN 37 on 4th & 8 with 2:36 remaining in the 4th while tied 20 to 20.
With a Surrender Index of 120.85, this punt ranks at the 99.9th percentile of cowardly punts of the 2022 season, and the 99.9th percentile of all punts since 1999.
— Surrender Index (@surrender_index) January 30, 2023
We never need to revisit this because the game went KC’s way, but my goodness this was a dicey call.
Winner: Travis Kelce
- Catch seven passes and dominate: Check
- Burn Cincinnati’s clout-chasing mayor: Check