Cincinnati Bengals clinch AFC North, first playoff berth since 2015

CINCINNATI -- The Bengals broke out the cigars and cranked up the music following their 34-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

They had plenty to celebrate.

Cincinnati clinched the AFC North title and its first playoff berth since 2015 with a comeback victory that snapped Kansas City's eight-game winning streak. Bengals rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and quarterback Joe Burrow each set franchise records.

The team that was the worst in the NFL two seasons ago celebrated a marquee moment in franchise history, clinching the division and a postseason spot with one game to spare in the regular season.

The Bengals manifested the accomplishment they talked about in the preseason.

"We were talking about the playoffs, and I said the goal was the playoffs and the easiest way to do that is to win the division," Burrow said. "Everyone kind of laughed at us a little bit, but we knew the kind of team we had and the kind of guys in the locker room we had and we knew we could go out and do it."

Chase scored three touchdowns on 11 catches and, with 266 receiving yards, set the record for the highest single-game total in franchise history. Chad Johnson held the previous record with a 260-yard performance against the San Diego Chargers in 2006.

Burrow was 30-of-39 passing for 446 yards with four touchdowns. He set the team record for passing yards (4,631) and touchdowns (36) in a single season, both previously set by Andy Dalton in 2013.

Cincinnati (10-6) secured the division on rookie Evan McPherson's 20-yard field goal as time expired. It capped a division-sealing drive filled with big moments and controversy.

Facing third-and-27, Cincinnati extended the drive with a 30-yard completion from Burrow to Chase that put the ball on Kansas City's 11-yard line with around three minutes left.

In the final minute, Cincinnati opted to attempt a fourth-and-goal from a yard away instead of kicking the field goal. An incompletion was nullified when offsetting penalties were called, giving Cincinnati another attempt. On the ensuing play, Kansas City (11-5) was penalized for illegal use of hands, giving the Bengals a fresh set of downs that eventually set up the game-winning field goal.

Kansas City coach Andy Reid said there were too many penalties, and noted one that negated a kickoff return for a touchdown and the fourth-down call at the end of the game. Kansas City had 10 total penalties for 83 yards.

"I'd like to comment on each one, but I don't want to be fined," Reid said in his postgame news conference.

Burrow was not on the field at the end of the game. He said he aggravated a right knee injury he suffered in a Week 13 loss against the Los Angeles Chargers. After dancing in the locker room and smoking his celebratory cigar from running back Joe Mixon, Burrow downplayed the issue and said it was "nothing serious."

It didn't dampen a moment for a franchise mired in losing in recent years. In 2019, the first under coach Zac Taylor, the Bengals won a league-low two games, which allowed them to draft Burrow with the first overall pick in the 2020 draft.

Asked to reflect on winning the AFC North on Sunday, a bleary-eyed Taylor started to respond before pausing for 11 seconds.

"Very proud," Taylor said when he eventually gathered himself.

Taylor later added that the team always felt like it could play with anyone in the league. He also said that while Sunday's victory was big, the Bengals have to prove they can win consistently after securing their first three-game winning streak of the season.

The fact that Sunday's win came against Kansas City bolstered the belief that Cincinnati has more to accomplish this season.

"We can go as far as we want to," Chase said. "We just won the AFC North."

ESPN's Adam Teicher contributed to this report