Joe Burrow, Bengals rally to spot in Super Bowl LVI

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The Bengals last January finished a 4-11-1 season. Joe Burrow, the promising rookie quarterback, got hurt in late November, and the knee injury was so significant that it seemed unlikely he’d be ready to play by the 2021 season-opener. Zac Taylor, the head coach, was 6-25-1 in two seasons, depths not reached by a Bengal coach since David Shula. The defense stunk to high heaven. Sixteen games, 17 sacks. Seventeen sacks! All season!

Two days after the season ended, a young man from Florida, 21-year-old kicker Evan McPherson, declared he would skip his final year of eligibility with the Gators to enter the NFL draft.

No one except a couple of Cincinnati scouts and de facto GM Duke Tobin found anything encouraging in that. They’d scouted McPherson, liked him, and would scout him a lot more in the 16 weeks before the draft. On draft day, Cincinnati made McPherson the fifth pick of the fifth round. No other kicker was drafted last April.

Now, fast-forward to Sunday, in overtime, at Arrowhead Stadium. McPherson was 4-for-4 in field goals in the wild-card win over Las Vegas, 4-for-4 in the upset of top-seeded Tennessee in the divisional round, and 3-for-3 so far today, including a 52-yard bullet down the middle to give the Bengals their first lead of the day in the fourth quarter. Now it was 24-all in OT. All McPherson had to do was boot a 31-yarder in the sixth minute of overtime and the Bengals would be going to the Super Bowl.

When McPherson lined up for the kick, he got a shot of adrenaline from his holder, punter Kevin Huber. Huber looked back at one of the hottest kickers in playoff history and said, “We’re going to the Super Bowl.”

AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs
Bengals kicker Evan McPherson (2). (Getty Images)

The 31-yard perfecto with 9:22 left in overtime lifted Cincinnati to the win. It also did not surprise McPherson in the least. The Bengals might have drafted Max Scherzer with the first pick of the 2020 draft in Burrow, but they also might have picked Mariano Rivera with the 149th pick in 2021 in McPherson. For the second straight weekend, he kicked the game-winner on the last play of the game. He also now has made 12 field goals of 50 yards or longer in his rookie year, more 50-yard-plus field goals in one season (including postseason play) than any kicker ever. Hall of Fame lock Adam Vinatieri’s high of 50-yard field goals for a season: seven.

“Being a kicker is like being a sniper,” McPherson said from Kansas City after the Cincinnati win. “You got one shot.”

There were lots of heroes in this game for Cincinnati. What had to be fun for Tobin and the scouts and coaches who put this group together is that so many of the players not named Burrow were critical in sending Cincinnati to the Super Bowl.

The receiver overshadowed by Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, had the biggest receiving day of the game—six catches for 103 yards. The Bengals drafted defensive end Sam Hubbard, traded for defensive tackle B.J. Hill, and signed edge-rusher Trey Hendrickson in free agency. Together, they combined for four sacks, six pressures and an interception against Patrick Mahomes.

I asked Hill on Sunday night what made the difference for Cincinnati’s D early and late. On his first three drives, Patrick Mahomes led three touchdown drives. On his next eight drives, he manufactured three measly points. One of his drives ended when Hill made an athletic batted-pass-turned-interception, and the turnover led to a vital Cincinnati touchdown.

The Bengals acquired Hill for a player they were done with, center Billy Price. Hill’s production all year has been stunning under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, and it was again Sunday. “When we got into the locker room at halftime,” Hill told me, “Lou told us, ‘Calm down. We’re fine.’ We just stayed with out assignments and starting playing better.”

Two big points in the last eight KC series. With nine seconds left in the first half, KC had the ball at the Cincinnati 1-yard line. Mahomes threw incomplete, and coach Andy Reid eschewed the chippy field goal and a 24-10 halftime lead to try another pass—this one out in the left flat to Tyreek Hill. It was one of those make-a-play-Tyreek calls by Reid. Except this time, Hill didn’t make a play. He got hogtied to the ground by Cincinnati corner Eli Apple. End of half.

The play reminded me of Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel passing on the certain one point PAT when Cincinnati was penalized on a conversion two weeks ago. Vrabel chose to go for two from the Cincinnati 1-yard line, and Derrick Henry got stuffed, so Tennessee got zero points. This time, Reid could have kicked the field goal and gotten three points. But if you’re Reid, and you know the chances are better than 50-50 that Mahomes can get a yard at the Bengals’ 1-yard line, it’s totally understandable he went for it. Failure makes it seem obvious the coach should have made the other call. That’s not the way football works. Sometimes you make the right call and it fails. That’s coaching.

Hill made the defensive play of the second half, batting a Mahomes pass in the air with 17 minutes left and then picking it off. The Bengals got seven points off the turnover, so Hill’s play was gigantic. It allowed the Bengals to tie the game. “We’re taught to put our hands up on a play like that,” said Hill. “I wasn’t shocked I came down with it.”

So the Bengals have clawed out wins by seven, three and three points, and they’re in the Super Bowl earlier than the nuttiest Bengals fan would have dreamed. “Nobody gave us a chance,” Hill said. “When we win, there’s always some reason why. We’re a good team, that’s why. And we’re going to the Super Bowl.”

Read more in Peter King’s Football Morning in America column

What to know about the 2023 Pro Bowl: Dates, how to watch/live stream info, AFC, NFC coaches, competition schedule, and more

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The 2023 NFL Pro Bowl will take place over the course of two days at Allegiant Stadium–home of the Las Vegas Raiders–in Paradise, Nevada. The excitement begins on Thursday, February 2 as NFL fan-favorites compete in a brand-new skills challenge featuring the following events: Epic Pro Bowl Dodgeball, Lightning Round, Longest Drive, Precision Passion, and Best Catch.

Sunday, February 5 will feature the following: the Best Catch Finale, Gridiron Gauntlet, Kick Tack Toe, Move the Chains, and three seven-on-seven non-contact Flag football games between the league’s best players.

See below for additional information on how to watch the 2023 Pro Bowl as well as answers to all of your frequently asked questions.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

Who are the coaches for the 2023 Pro Bowl?

AFC Coaches:

  • Peyton Manning – Head Coach
  • Ray Lewis – Defensive Coordinator
  • Diana Flores – Offensive Coordinator

NFC Coaches:

  • Eli Manning – Head Coach
  • Demarcus Ware – Defensive Coordinator
  • Vanita Krouch – Offensive Coordinator

How will the 2023 Pro Bowl be different from previous editions of the event?

Rather than the traditional tackle football game, this year’s Pro Bowl will debut a skills competition and a non-contact flag football game.

How will scoring work?

According to the NFL, points will be calculated in the following way:

  • The winning conference of each skill competition earns three points towards their team’s overall score, with 24 total points available across the eight skills events.
  • The winning conference from each of the first two Flag football games on Sunday will earn six points for their team, for a total of 12 available points.
  • Points from the skills competitions and first two Flag games will be added together and will be the score at the beginning of the third and final Flag game, which will determine the winning conference for The Pro Bowl Games.

How to watch the 2023 Pro Bowl:

  • Where: Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada
  • When: Thursday, February 2 (7:00 PM ET) and Sunday, February 5 (3:00 PM ET)
  • TV Channel: ESPN, ABC, and Disney XD

When is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 takes place on Sunday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

Where is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 will be contested at State Farm Stadium–home of the Arizona Cardinals– in Glendale, Arizona.

What teams are playing in Super Bowl 2023?

The Philadelphia Eagles will face the Kansas City Chiefs marking the first time since 2017 that both top seeds qualified for the Super Bowl.


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Super Bowl food 2023: Appetizer, entrée, and dessert ideas for Super Bowl LVII inspired by the Eagles and Chiefs

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As the countdown continues toward Super Bowl LVII, the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs are getting their game plans set. But while they go over their plays, the rest of America goes over their menus in preparation for the big day. When it comes to the Super Bowl, everything is always the best — the best teams, the best performers and, of course, the best food.

But how can you impress your party in the kitchen while showing support for your favorite team? Let’s take a look at some iconic food from each of the Super Bowl team cities to prepare for Super Bowl LVII.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl LVII: Date, location, how to watch

Philadelphia Super Bowl food

Crabfries

Why have plain old fries when you could have crabfries? That’s exactly what Pete Ciarrocchi, the CEO of the legendary Philadelphia restaurant Chickie and Pete’s, said one day when creating this intriguing concoction.

While the name may be misleading, crabfries do not contain any actual crab, but rather a blend of spices and Old Bay seasoning that allow the dish to take on a subtle seafood flavor. Topped with a creamy, cheesy dipping sauce, the crinkle-cut fries are sure to take your taste buds to the next level.

Cheesesteak sloppy joes

It simply isn’t Philly without a cheesesteak. Keep it casual in your kitchen on Super Bowl Sunday with Katie Lee Biegel’s Philly Cheesesteak sloppy joes, an easy way to rep the Birds.

Can’t get enough of the cheesesteak? Bring some more Philly specials to the table with this cheesesteak dip, the perfect way to amp up your appetizer game and leave party guests feeling like they just took a trip to the City of Brotherly Love.

RELATED: Rob Gronkowski predicts Eagles to win Super Bowl LVII

Water ice

Is the action of the game heating up? Cool down with a classic Philly treat, water ice. First originating in Bensalem, Pennsylvania in 1984, the icy dessert is now sold in over 600 stores nationwide. The original Rita’s Water Ice shop, however, still remains open for business.

You can even show a little extra passion for the Birds by whipping up this green apple variation, sure to leave you refreshed and ready for the Lombardi.

Kansas City Super Bowl food

Cheese slippers

If you’re looking for a classy, yet authentic appetizer to bring to the table, there’s no better fit than the cheese slipper. This ciabatta loaf baked with melty cheeses and topped with seasonal vegetables and herbs has Kansas City natives hooked.

While the bread is typically baked to perfection by local shops, test your own skill level with this gourmet slipper bread recipe that you can complete with the mouth-watering toppings of your choice.

RELATED: How many Super Bowls have the Chiefs been to, won?

BBQ burnt ends

It’s rare to hear the words Kansas City without barbeque following short after. If you’re looking to impress your guests with your Super Bowl food spread, get out to the grill and start showing off.

While many cities in America know how to cook up some excellent BBQ, the combination of the sweet flavors and mouth-watering sauce has made Kansas City a hub for barbeque lovers for decades.

BBQ burnt ends, while a bit time-consuming, are  well worth a little elbow grease. The dish is also one of the few in Kansas City with a distinct origin story. The meal first found its creation at Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, a legendary African American restaurant in KC. Bryant originally made the burnt ends from the trimmings of pork belly, but since then, BBQ lovers have made incredible bites out of many styles of meat.

And if you’re feeling extra ambitious, try fixing up some classic Kansas City sides to pair with your entrée to perfection.

RELATED: What to know about Rihanna, the Super Bowl LVII halftime performer

Chiefs chocolate chip cookies

While there is no specific dessert that defines the Heart of America, you can still show your Kansas City pride with these ever-colorful Chiefs chocolate chip cookies.

Make sure to have your food dye handy, because the red and yellow hue of these cookies are sure to show everyone whose side you are on.

Or, if you’re feeling artistic, design an eye-catching Chiefs jersey out of the fan-favorite rice krispie treats. Whether you make Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce or Chris Jones, you’ll have the tastiest Super Bowl jerseys around.

How to watch the Super Bowl 2023 – Philadelphia Eagles vs Kansas City Chiefs:

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