KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This Super Bowl berth for the Cincinnati Bengals will come with a side of arrogance served by the Kansas City Chiefs.

The miracle Bengals deservedly danced off the Arrowhead Stadium turf clutching close to their hearts their first Super Bowl berth in 33 years, where they will take on the Los Angeles Rams. But the Lamar Hunt Trophy signifying the AFC champions on Sunday might as well have been spit-shined for them by the Chiefs.

In other words, a lot of this result was handed to the Bengals. Or something close to it. In these parts -- heck, across the country -- Cincinnati's 27-24 overtime win will be remembered for what the Chiefs didn't do as much as what the Bengals did. That is, protect an 18-point first-half lead. That is, engage in a second-half meltdown that was in direct contrast to the divisional round victory over Buffalo that some are calling one of the great games ever.

That is, take a high dive into a pool without water. A week after the Chiefs stretched 13 seconds into glory, this will be known as the face plant heard around Chiefs Kingdom. It also will be known as the transformation of Joe Burrow into the new King of Clutch heading to his first Super Bowl in his second season. Patrick Mahomes reached his first Super Bowl in 2019, his second season as a starter and third in the league.

That seems so long ago, as does that 18-point first-half lead that was surely going to push the Chiefs into their third straight Super Bowl. Then the worst thing happened to the burgeoning superstar and the franchise he carries on his half-billion dollar back.

With five minutes left in the first half Kansas City was in total control up 21-3. With five seconds left in the first half, the Chiefs were up 21-10, a yard away from adding to a commanding lead with another TD or at least a field goal.

Coach Andy Reid calculated that his powerful offense could squeeze off one more play and, at worst, settle for that field goal. Except that one play was not into the end zone where even a quick incompletion would have left enough time to add three points. That play was a swing pass to Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs best receiver, who was wrestled down on the 2. Double covered, to boot.

That play has to go into the end zone with no timeouts remaining. That play can't cost the team at least three points.

"I'll take responsibility," Reid said. "We had enough time for another play, but I've got to get one that's open in the end zone."

Yes he does.

The failure to pad the lead came early but it was key. Something happened in that moment. The Chiefs were too good to fail until they tempted fate. There was an opening for Cincinnati.

"I think that was really the turning point in the game," Burrow said.

The Chiefs had scored on their first three possessions then whiffed on the next six. Nada. Something happened in that moment that transformed the Bengals, Chiefs and Burrow.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor recalled a similar rebound during the season after falling behind to Jacksonville 14-0 at halftime. Cincinnati eventually won 24-21.

"We've got stuff in our memory banks," Taylor said. "When our defense makes that play and we're down 11, we knew we were going to be able to go win that game."

Sure you did, Zac, but the Chiefs were going to have to be active participants in the comeback. A week after Mahomes became the Grim Reaper, things were just ... grim in this Chiefs-crazy locale. About the only sound emitting from 78,000 stunned fans exiting Arrowhead was the scattered squeals of a few Bengals fans.

"Deflated would be a good way to describe it," Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said.

Who Dey? A blessed team touched with some kind of destiny's wand that beat the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds on the road to get to the Super Bowl.

"We're made for this moment," safety Vonn Bell said.

Go crazy, Cincy, go crazy.

In the end, Burrow reshaped himself, his team and Cincinnati. The mantle of Next Big Thing is his until further notice. Buffalo's Josh Allen went down in overtime flinging four touchdowns here last week. Mahomes is out of the tournament.

Since December 2019 Burrow has won the Heisman Trophy, a national championship, an AFC title and is headed to L.A. with a long-suffering city on the Ohio River ready to elevate him to god-like status. The kid who wasn't good enough to play at Ohio State is toast of the state of the Ohio. No, make that the NFL.

"If you would have told me before the season we would go to the Super Bowl, I would say you're crazy," Burrow said.

Most people would. The cocky kid from Athens, Ohio, appeared in the postgame zoom sporting a black turtleneck and bejeweled "JB9" necklace accompanied by a Nike swoosh.

"They're definitely real," Burrow said of the jewels. "I make too much money to have fake ones."

The kid is magic at the moment. Earlier this month the Chiefs led the Bengals by two touchdowns three times at Cincinnati. Burrow threw for 446 yards, 266 of them to former LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase. The Bengals won by three.

On Sunday, the Chiefs were in total control until they weren't. When Mahomes was intercepted trying to throw a middle screen near the end of the third quarter, it ended a postseason Kansas City streak of 160 offensive snaps without a turnover. Burrow quickly drove the Bengals 27 yards for the tying score. Trent Taylor, a receiver activated off the practice squad the day before, caught the game-tying two-pointer.

This time against the Chiefs, Burrow threw for a more modest 250 yards. Twice in the fourth quarter he scrambled for first downs on the drive that resulted in the Bengals' first lead of the game, 24-21 with six minutes left. The Chiefs rallied. There was a heartbeat with a game-tying field goal as time expired in regulation.

The Bengals' biggest mistake of the game might have been calling "heads" during the coin toss as the game went into overtime. The coin came up tails and for the second straight week it looked like the Chiefs were destined to ride a flip into a playoff win.

Talk shows nationwide were ready again with both barrels loaded about the silliness of NFL overtime. But Cincinnati stole the show. Mahomes fell further into his second half/overtime funk (8 of 18, 55 yards, two interceptions after halftime). On the first overtime possession, Bell picked off a ball that bounced off Hill's hands.

"In the second half we were off just a tick," Mahomes said. "That's all it takes to lose a football game."

At that point it was next score wins. The Bengals were suddenly staring at that ultimate climb from worst to first in the AFC North. Three decades-plus without a Super Bowl appearance was weighing on the mind of every Bengals fan. Nine plays after the pick, rookie kicker Evan McPherson -- perfect in the postseason, 12-for-12, including two game-winners -- booted a 31-yard field goal.

In case you missed it, the Bengals have knocked off the No. 1 (Tennessee) and No. 2 seeds on the road in the last two weeks. They won each game with a field goal on the last play of the game.

This city collapsed into the arms of anybody who would hug it. Their beloved Chiefs had been a tad too confident about home field and destiny and Super Bowl birthright. Six-hundred miles to the east another city went nuts. A native son with a future as bright as his necklace had kicked off the party.

"Yes, something has changed," McPherson said. "We've kind of pushed that underdog narrative to the side. The Bengals are here to stay." 

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