Bengals Coverage

Bengals Beat: What Really Matters To Bengals Starts With Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Not Locker Room Talk

CINCINNATI — There’s been a lot of effort this week expended by some in the media to stoke the flames between the Bengals and the Chiefs.

Travis Kelce and Melissa Etheridge warned that Mike Hilton’s battle cry of Onto “Burrowhead” would serve as bulletin board material for the Chiefs Sunday night. Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay said Thursday “nothing” impressed him about the Bengals offense when asked.

When the game kicks off Sunday, what will really matter are the matchups and how each team adjusts.

Take, for instance, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce The perennial All-Pro had 14 catches for 98 yards and two touchdown catches from Patrick Mahomes in the 27-20 win over the Jaguars in the Divisional round.

“That’s one of the best tight ends in the game,” Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt said. “You’ve got to eliminate his touches. He had 14 last week. That’s huge. You take (Mahomes’) guy away. You make other guys beat (you). That’s a huge job we’ve got this week.

“We didn’t do our job if he has 14 (catches again).”

Added Bengals rookie corner Cam Taylor-Britt, “That was a last week. We’ve got to come up with a plan, most definitely, to make sure he doesn’t.”

The other guys include Kadarius Toney, acquired in a mid-season trade with the New York Giants, Mecole Hardman, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdez-Scantling. All four have proven capable of replacing the loss of Tyreek Hill to Miami.

But when the chips are down and Mahomes needs a completion, he is going to look in Kelce’s direction because of his uncanny ability to shed defenders and get open long enough for his quarterback to spot him.

“Most people know that’s Mahomes’ go-to target,” Logan Wilson said. “You’ve got to know where he is at all times… he’s going to find ways to get open and I think that’s what makes Mahomes so special is that he can scramble and make every throw across the field. He’s always looking for Kelce because of the talent he is. We’ve got a lot of respect for him and it’s always a good challenge for us.

“He can separate with DBs, linebackers, whoever’s covering him. He’s good at finding open spots in the zone. He makes guys miss, too, in the open field. He’s not easy to bring down. He’s just an all-around really good tight end.”

Don’t forget about Kansas City’s tandem backs of Jerick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco, who gave the Bengals fits in the first game. The two backs combined for 22 carries and 117 yards in Cincinnati’s 27-24 win on Dec. 4 at Paycor.

As a matter of fact, KC’s run game is likely right there with the Mahomes-Kelce combo as the biggest concern for Lou Anarumo’s defense because of the ability of head coach Andy Reid to use them in different situations and run fits.

Pacheco had 14 carries for 66 yards while McKinnon only had eight carries but netted 51 yards. These two backs are capable of explosive plays at any point and the Bengals must make sure they don’t gash them and allow the Chiefs to control the tempo of the game.

Mike Petraglia

Joined CLNS Media in 2017. Covered Boston sports as a radio broadcaster, reporter, columnist and TV and video talent since 1993. Covered Boston Red Sox for MLB.com from 2000-2007 and the New England Patriots for ESPN Radio, WBZ-AM, SiriusXM, WEEI, WEEI.com and CLNS since 1993. Featured columnist for the Boston Celtics on CelticsBlog.

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