Bengals prepare to go up against Chiefs, Mahomes
After Cincinnati's defense was unable to stop Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers at crunch time last week, the Bengals expect a similar test on Sunday night when they travel to Kansas City for a prime-time matchup against the Chiefs.
The Bengals (4-2) watched wide receiver Antonio Brown score the winning touchdown on a pass from Roethlisberger with 10 seconds remaining that gave the Steelers a 28-21 victory last Sunday in Cincinnati.
Later that night, they saw Chiefs second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes lose a 43-40 shootout with New England quarterback Tom Brady.
"Obviously we know what their offense presents," Bengals wide receiver Alex Erickson said. "We got to score points. They obviously got a high-powered offense and they obviously present a lot of problems there."
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will have the opportunity to outdo Mahomes on the big stage of NBC's Sunday Night Football.
"I saw his arm talent and what he can do," Dalton said. "He's obviously been showing it all year. He's playing really well and at a really high level. That's the biggest thing everybody knew about him when he was coming out.
"I watched him when he was at (Texas) Tech, just being a Big 12 (fan) with TCU. He's playing really well."
Mahomes can throw to multiple weapons. There's speedy Tyreek Hill and big tight end Travis Kelce.
That should worry the Bengals, whose defense is ranked 29th in the NFL, allowing 409.2 yards per game. Their pass defense also is suspect, giving up 1,818 yards, the fourth highest total in the league and on pace to set a team record for most yards passing allowed in a season.
"You have an opportunity, but they do have a great variety of quick passes," Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. "Normal quick passes or behind the line of scrimmage with screens or the toss sweep-type passes where it counts as a run. They have a very creative offense."
To make matters more difficult for the Bengals' defense, linebacker Nick Vigil, the team's leading tackler with 51, is expected to miss at least four weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee. Cornerback Darqueze Dennard is likely out for this week with shoulder injury.
There was concern that linebacker Vontaze Burfict might have received a suspension from the league for several rough hits against the Steelers.
"Everybody makes comments on everything No. 55 does," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. "They don't comment on anything anybody else does. Let's just leave it at that."
On offense, running Joe Mixon ran 11 times for 64 yards against the Steelers. He won't have Giovani Bernard to rotate with this week. Bernard remains out with a knee injury.
But wide receiver John Ross could return after missing the past two weeks. The speedy wideout has seven receptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns this season.
If the past is any indication, the Bengals could be in trouble. In three previous games flexed to the national broadcast, they're 0-3.
"We should be allowed to play with 12, a special rule for this week," Lewis said of facing the Chiefs. "They do a great job of making you defend the entire field. You get misdirection, motion shifts, personnel changes, all the things that do and make you respond to them and they do them with great athleticism and speed."
Both teams have started games quickly so far. The Bengals have outscored their opponents 45-17 in the first quarter and the Chiefs are even better with a 65-19 points differential in the first 15 minutes.
Kansas City's offensive success early in the season stemmed from the simple philosophy of putting the ball into the end zone. The team scored 16 touchdowns through its first three games with just four field goals from kicker Harrison Butker.
But the offense slowed its pace with just 10 touchdowns in the last three games, settling for nine field goals, including four in Week 6 against New England.
"We have stalled at getting it in the end zone," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. "I take responsibility for that. We want to score touchdowns. I love Butker, but I would rather score a touchdown. I feel also fortunate that if things do stall, we have someone who is a good kicker."
Mahomes looks to bounce back from the Chiefs' first loss of the season.
"There's definitely a fire," Mahomes said. "You hate losing as a competitor. At the same time, you learn, especially for me, that you can't miss throws against great teams. That's pretty much the biggest thing I'm going to take from that game. No matter how early it is in the game those things come back to haunt you at the end."
Updated October 18, 2018