Winners and losers from Bengals' gut-wrenching loss to Chiefs in AFC title game

AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs
AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

There won't be a Super Bowl parade in Cincinnati this year. The Cincinnati Bengals fell to the Kansas City Chiefs 23-20 in the AFC Championship Game, putting a sad bow on the Bengals' season. Now the stripes enter what should be an interesting offseason.

As we do following every game, let's check out the winners and losers from this matchup.

Since the Bengals lost, we'll start with the winners.


Tee Higgins

There could be some drama surrounding Higgins and the Bengals this offseason even though he's still under contract for the 2023 season. We'll get to that another time, though.

Higgins was one of the few standout stars from this loss, leading the team in receiving yards with 83 yards off of six catches. The highlight of the game for him was when he scored a touchdown and delivered the game ball to his mom in the stands.

Ja'Marr Chase

Had the Bengals won this game, that 4th-and-6 completion to Chase would have been an image that fans wanted framed on their wall forever. Sadly, it's not as important because the team lost but that doesn't take away from what Chase did in this game.

Chase just missed on being the lead receiver in the game, with six catches for 75 yards. He was clearly Joe Burrow's go-to guy, as he usually is, but no touchdowns were had between the two this time around.

Sam Hubbard

I'm putting Hubbard here because he had the one takeaway for the Bengals and it led to a Cincinnati touchdown. The fumble felt like the momentum shift the Bengals needed but alas, it wasn't meant to be.

Still, I had to include Hubbard because he made the only takeaway happen.


Offensive Line

It appears that the performance the offensive line from the divisional round was a bit of a fluke, as they got worked in this one. Chris Jones dominated the Bengals' O-line all evening long and in total, the unit surrendered five sacks on Joe Burrow, with the final one coming on that 3rd-and-8 that forced Cincinnati to punt.

The Bengals revamped their o-line in the offseason last year and obviously you can't predict injuries but the attention still needs to be on the offensive line in free agency and the draft. La'el Collins wasn't cutting it at right tackle and depth needs to be addressed.

Drue Chrisman

Add punter to the list of needs for the Bengals in the offseason because Drue Chrisman ain't it, man. There was hope that Chrisman could be the next long-term punter of the Bengals but he had a bad game in the AFC title game. The Chiefs were never pinned deep and on their final drive, which ended up being the game-winning drive, they started with the ball on their own 47-yard line. That's not going to cut it.

Run Game

Unless you're the Ravens or the Bills, it's not good when the quarterback is the leading rusher on offense. Burrow had the most rushing yards for the Bengals on Sunday, notching 30 yards on four carries. He was making the most of his runs but it's hard to win a game when the run game isn't doing much (somehow the Chiefs were even worse in the run game).

We knew the run game's inconsistencies would eventually catch up to this team and that's what we saw this week. I'm not sure if the team will keep Joe Mixon in the offseason or move on from him but it might be nice for them to start fresh at the running back position.

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Joseph Ossai

I'm not going to pile on Ossai, as he's going to get enough of that for the next several months but what he did was inexcusable. Patrick Mahomes was clearly well out of bounds before Ossai shoved him into the bench and that's a mistake you CAN'T make in those moments.

I feel bad for Ossai and hope that he can come back from this but it was a bad decision from the young player.