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Bengals feeling sting of AFC finish

The day after was not easy for the Cincinnati Bengals. A 23-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night ended the Bengals’ bid to return to the Super Bowl as Cincinnati closed out the 2022 season with a 14-5 overall record. But Bengals head coach Zac Taylor knows a bounce or call in the other direction was all that stood between Cincinnati and one more game. “It can still sting, and you can be really proud of what we did this season,” Taylor said Monday. “We were 4-4 at Halloween and ended the season 14-5 with back-to-back AFC North titles.”

The Chiefs advanced to Super Bowl LVII with a 45-yard field goal from Harrison Butker with 3 seconds left in the fourth quarter. On the previous play, quarterback Patrick Mahomes scrambled to the sideline and went out of bounds after picking up a first down. With both feet over the sideline and his momentum taking him out of bounds, Mahomes was shoved by Bengals defensive end Joseph Ossai. Officials tossed a 15-yard penalty that put Butker’s attempt in closer, near-automatic range. But Taylor said that play didn’t decide the game.

Cameras caught linebacker Germaine Pratt as he entered the locker room shouting, “Why would you touch the quarterback?” “I was emotional, I was in the moment. I was wrong. I wasn’t a great teammate in that moment,” Pratt said Monday. “I’m going back to work.”

Defensive tackle B.J. Hill stood to Ossai’s left in front of his locker Sunday night and helped guide questions and deflect criticism. Taylor said that’s the tight-knit family image he’ll take away from the loss. “It was awesome to see the guys support each other in a real tough moment,” Taylor said. “That’s the team we’ve always been.” Pratt is one of the players headed for free agency in March if the Bengals don’t address their contracts. Starting safeties Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates and cornerbacks Eli Apple and Tre Flowers are also unrestricted free agents.

No matter will garner more attention than quarterback Joe Burrow’s contract. He has two years, including the fifth-year option in 2025, remaining on his rookie contract as the No. 1 pick in 2020. But here’s why Burrow’s deal is most important entering the offseason: the first four years of that deal — worth under $37 million total — will very likely be less than Burrow’s future annual salary. Burrow’s cap hit in 2023 is just $11.5 million. By comparison, Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has a $54.9 million cap hit and Mahomes’ is $46.8 million.

–Field Level Media


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