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Buffaloes in the NFL: Awuzie, Tupou help Bengals to Super Bowl berth

Cincinnati defeated Eric Bieniemy’s Chiefs in the AFC title game.

NFL: AFC Championship-Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

For the third consecutive year, and the 8th time in 10 years, the Colorado Buffaloes will have alumni competing for a Super Bowl ring. Members of the vaunted 2016 Buffs, Chidobe Awuzie and Josh Tupou helped the Cincinnati Bengals to an AFC Championship victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Any defense that gets the best of Patrick Mahomes should be celebrated, and with all due respect to standout safety Jessie Bates, Awuzie may be the star of Cincy’s defensive backfield. Signed as a free agent from the Dallas Cowboys, Chido spent the afternoon covering perennial All-Pro receiver Tyreek Hill. The San Jose native was bested on an early touchdown, but was crucial in holding the Chiefs to just 6 points in the second half. Mahomes made some critical mistakes while scrambling in the pocket, not because of the pass rush, but because the coverage downfield was impenetrable.

The Chiefs were a bit more successful on the ground, rushing for 139 yards on just 24 attempts (5.8 ypc), but most of those yards came on outside runs and scrambles. The Bengals did just fine holding down the interior with nose tackle Josh Tupou playing significant snaps, something that was more pronounced last week when he started against the Tennessee Titans. Superstar running back Derrick Henry had nothing going as he rushed for 62 yards on 20 carries. Tupou isn’t one to rack up stats, but he’s grown into a great space eater and run defender since signing with Cincy as an undrafted free agent in 2017.

The Bengals will face the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl, hosted in the Rams’ SoFi Stadium. Similar to the Chiefs, the Rams will air it out, putting tremendous pressure on Awuzie and company to stop the Stafford-Kupp connection. If Cincinnati does pull it out, it would cap one of the great Cinderella stories in NFL history.