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Bengals’ receivers treating AFC Championship rematch with Chiefs like business as usual

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 1/27/2023 Mohammad Ahmad,
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (L) congratulates Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst after catching a touchdown pass in the first half during their AFC division playoff game January 22, 2023, at Highmark Stadium. © John Kuntz/ Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (L) congratulates Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst after catching a touchdown pass in the first half during their AFC division playoff game January 22, 2023, at Highmark Stadium.

CINCINNATI, Ohio - The Bengals are returning to Arrowhead Stadium like they never left.

Almost exactly a year after marching into Kansas City and pulling off an AFC Championship game upset in overtime, the Bengals’ wide receiving corps returns a bevy of experience for this weekend’s conference tilt rematch. They’ve seen the sea of red, heard the defining decibels and played under the pressure of being just one game away from football’s biggest-ever game.

The recent series against Kansas City has been lopsided as the Bengals possess a 3-0 record against the Chiefs in the Joe Burrow era. Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, who had one of the biggest games of his career in last year’s AFC title game, welcomes the unwelcoming Arrowhead environment.

“We’re building a rivalry. It’s great competition at the end of the day,” Higgins said. “Playing there in the same type of game, same type of environment at Arrowhead, I mean, it doesn’t get no better than that,” Higgins said.

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Higgins finished that game with six receptions for 103 yards, including two big catches on the Bengals’ game-winning drive in overtime that helped set up Evan McPherson’s game-winning field goal. Seventh-year wide receiver Tyler Boyd, however, had a much more modest game as he only had four catches for 19 yards. That still played a critical role in the Bengals’ tying the largest comeback in conference title game history with 18 unanswered points.

Boyd said he’s confident the Bengals will come out with the 14-3 start they had against the Chiefs back in their December win compared to that 18-point deficit last year.

“We pride ourselves on starting fast and finishing. So, as long as we do that, it doesn’t matter we play,” Boyd said.

Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase had a memorable, emotional game that was best exclamated by his game-tying 2-yard touchdown catch from Burrow to help tie the game up at 21 a piece. Chase was visibly crying after the game as he celebrated amongst his teammates and coaches, including wide receiver coach Troy Walters.

An overwhelming moment for the rookie who helped send his team to the Super Bowl, Chase said the emotions are much more even-keel heading back out west.

“I like big games. I don’t say what Joe (Burrow) says like he lives for them. I like them, but I don’t really care for them. But it’s something I love because that’s when everyone is watching and that’s when you get to really put on a show,” Chase said.

Tight end Hayden Hurst would certainly love to put on a show after he left the Week 13 matchup against the Chiefs early in the first quarter with a calf injury. He would miss the next three games before returning in Week 17. Hurst and Higgins were subject to bulletin board material from Chiefs safety Justin Reid who mixed up the two while claiming to “shut them down.”

Hurst is not paying attention to any outside chatter, including recent remarks coming out of the Chiefs’ locker room, but he’s focused on picking up with where he left off with his two-catch performance back on Dec. 4.

“Going out early like that sucked. It’s not what I had envisioned but I just want to help this team win. Teams have to worry about me in the middle of the field on 3rd down and things like that. You have to account for me,” Hurst said.

Each of the last three matchups between these two teams has been decided by a field goal. Last month’s regular season matchup was decided by the same 27-24 score as that overtime championship thriller in Kansas City.

Like Higgins said, this is heating up into a rivalry, much like as if these two teams were divisional foes.

But make no mistake. This is no divisional game.

“It’s the championship game. Who wouldn’t be excited to play in a game like this? A game to get to the biggest game in football?” Higgins exclaimed. “It’s going to feel like a championship game. We know what’s at stake. It’s win or go home.”

Mohammad Ahmad covers the Bengals for You can follow him on Twitter @MohammadAhmadTV and read all his coverage at

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