USA Today

This time last year, Joe Burrow was rehabbing his surgically-repaired knee. On Sunday, Burrow led the Bengals to an upset win over the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. Burrow made history in the process, becoming the first quarterback and former No. 1 overall pick to reach the Super Bowl in his first two seasons. 

Down 21-3, Burrow and the Bengals' offense scored 24 of the game's final 27 points. In overtime, Vonn Bell's interception gave the ball back to Burrow, who completed two passes to Tee Higgins to help set up Evan McPherson's game-winning field goal. Cincinnati also received tough running from Joe Mixon, who ran for 88 yards on 21 carries. 

"We've been a second-half team all year," Burrow told CBS Sports' Jim Nantz after the game. "We don't really want to be that way, but it's kind of how it's worked out. Our defense really stepped up in the second half, and on offense we made plays when we had to. Our offensive line played great; we started running the ball. Just a great overall team effort." 

Burrow's rookie season was cut short by a knee injury after 10 games. After an offseason of rehab and recovery, Burrow led the Bengals to the franchise's first AFC North title since 2015, their first playoff win since 1990, their first road playoff victory ever and the team's first trip to the Super Bowl since 1988. 

In the process, the Bengals defeated the AFC's top-seeded Titans and the defending two-time AFC champion Chiefs, who came up short in their quest to become the fourth team to reach three consecutive Super Bowls. In Sunday's 27-24 win, the Bengals received a gritty performance by a defense that held the Chiefs to just three points in the second half. Their defense held the Chiefs out of the end zone on the final play of the first half while, while Sam Hubbard's sack of Patrick Mahomes forced the Chiefs to settle for a field goal to force overtime. 

Burrow is the third Bengals quarterback in franchise history to reach the Super Bowl. Ken Anderson, a member of the Bengals' inaugural Ring of Honor, led Cincinnati to its first Super Bowl berth in 1981. Boomer Esiason led the Bengals to their second AFC title in 1988. Burrow can separate himself from the pack by becoming the first Bengals quarterback to win the Super Bowl. 

"It's something I'm really proud of, being from Ohio, being a quarterback of the Bengals," Burrow said. "[Cincinnati is] two-and-a-half hours from my home town. This is something I've always wanted, to play in the Super Bowl, and I'm doing it with a great group of guys." 

Bengals AFC Champions gear now available

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