CINCINNATI — Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton has a unique name for the Kansas City Chiefs’ stadium — “Burrowhead.”
Hilton coined the moniker for Arrowhead Stadium during the team’s divisional round victory over the Buffalo Bills. Hilton said he knew he would ruffle a few feathers when he uttered the phrase into an NFL Films camera last weekend, but it’s evidence of the team’s confidence heading into the rematch with Kansas City in the AFC title game Sunday.
“That’s just our locker room, man,” Hilton said Wednesday. “That’s just who we are. We got a whole bunch of guys that love playing with each other.”
The story behind the story is about as cut-and-dried as what it’s referencing. During the team’s 27-10 win over the Bills last weekend, Hilton was walking down the sideline, realized the Bengals were headed to Kansas City for another AFC Championship Game and saw Joe Burrow, the winning quarterback in last year’s tilt for AFC supremacy. Last year’s victory that sent the Bengals to the Super Bowl was the second of three consecutive victories against Kansas City, the first on the road.
“It might have stirred a few pots, but it is what it is,” Hilton said.
Naturally, at least one Kansas City player took exception to that nickname. Tight end Travis Kelce said on his “New Heights” podcast that Bengals fans using the “Burrowhead” name are putting a lot of bulletin board material on the internet ahead of the showdown. Patrick Mahomes even chimed in on the subject on one of Audacy’s radio affiliates.
“I mean trash talk is just kind of part of the game,” Mahomes told 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City. “I know our guys will be ready to go, and I’m glad we get to play at Arrowhead and see what happens.”
Hilton’s stadium nomenclature is indicative of how confident the Bengals have felt during a 10-game winning streak that dates to Week 9 of the regular season. Ahead of the team’s Week 17 game against the Bills that was abandoned, running back Joe Mixon said the Bengals wanted to prove they were the “big dogs” in the AFC. Wide receiver Tee Higgins echoed that sentiment after the Bengals beat Buffalo this past Sunday to return to the conference title game for the second straight year and spoke of Cincinnati’s Super Bowl pedigree.
“We went last year with most of the guys in the locker room,” Higgins said. “We all knew we had the talent and the coaches to go back. We just had to put [together] the pieces of the puzzle.”
When asked about the team’s confidence throughout the year, Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said there is a balance that needs to be struck as the team asserts its self-belief.
“Of course, we want our focus to be on our team,” Taylor said. “At the same time, I want our players to have that confidence that leads to that edge. They’re not afraid of anybody. They know that they’ve put in the work. They know they belong on the field with everybody.”
And even though Hilton has a fun, dominating nickname for the venue Cincinnati will play this weekend, he says beating Kansas City will be challenging.
“We know what’s at stake,” Hilton said. “We know what’s in front of us. We know we’re going to play a great team on Sunday. But we’re ready.”