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Chiefs squander control of AFC playoff race in Cincinnati


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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — With a rare fumble by Travis Kelce, a missed field-goal try by Harrison Butker and a woeful inability to pressure the quarterback on Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs squandered a chance to control the AFC playoff race down the stretch.

After losing their third straight game to the Bengals, blowing a fourth-quarter lead in a 27-24 defeat in Cincinnati, the Chiefs tumbled out of the top playoff position in the conference.

They are now 9-3 and tied atop the standings with Buffalo, which handed the Chiefs one of their losses and thus holds the tiebreaker with five games left to play.

Making things even more worrisome: The Bengals hold the tiebreaker over Kansas City, too. And they're tied with the Ravens and Dolphins at 8-4, just a game behind the Bills and Chiefs in what is suddenly a tight playoff race.

“They've beaten us three times in a row,” Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon said, “so they obviously have our number right now. Looking at it and what we're going through, a lot of times it comes down to just doing what it takes — a minor mistake here and there, and it will come back to cost you.”

Such as when Kelce fumbled trying to gain unnecessary extra yardage while the Chiefs were clinging to a 24-20 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Or when Butker missed a 55-yard field goal well within his range with 3:24 to go that would have tied the game. Or any of the times the Chiefs failed to get to Joe Burrow, who was barely pressured much less sacked.

It was all an eerily similar script to the previous two meetings with the Bengals, when the Chiefs blew leads in a regular-season loss in Cincinnati in January and an overtime loss four weeks later in the AFC title game.

“They just have a well-put together team,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “You saw the offense, even though it has the playmakers, they'll take their time and kind of utilize the clock. Their defense changes up a lot of different coverages. They did a good job trying to take Travis away as much as possible and that's why you saw a lot of the other guys making catches. I feel like we executed at a high level ... (but) it wasn't high enough because we didn't win.”

In fact, the Chiefs have had a difficult time defeating both of their biggest rivals for AFC supremacy.

Along with three straight losses to the Bengals, the Chiefs have lost two of their past three against the Bills, including the 24-20 setback at Arrowhead Stadium earlier this season that is suddenly looming large in the playoff picture.

“It was a rematch of the AFC championship game and it lived up to it,” Chiefs safety Justin Reid said. “It isn't a good feeling right now, but the good news is we have a lot of football left to play in December, and I'm sure we're going to see those guys again come January.”



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