As Chiefs tailback Kareem Hunt carried four defenders inside the Bengals’ 10-yard line, after he had broken free from another, after he had hurdled another, lineman Andrew Wylie sought out a marked man.
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
A week ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers were outspoken about Burfict’s late hits and other perceived dirty tactics during the game, actions that lightened his bank account by $112,000.
But on Sunday night, the Chiefs spoke first. And often.
And Wylie spoke loudest.
As Hunt was finishing off his first-quarter run, Wylie, making his first career NFL start, jogged toward Burfict and shouldered him to the ground. The lasting image was a bit of irony: Burfict face-first on the Arrowhead Stadium grass, turning his head toward a referee and flailing his arms to call for a penalty flag.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Burfict getting hit here. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bengals?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Bengals</a> <a href="https://t.co/dkkasyP7ja">pic.twitter.com/dkkasyP7ja</a></p>— Brandon Saho (@BrandonSaho) <a href="https://twitter.com/BrandonSaho/status/1054170542897590272?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 22, 2018</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
It was a microcosm of an eventful first half with Burfict in his familiar spot — at the center of attention before, during and after plays.
He didn’t finish the second half. After Hunt tossed him to the ground with a stiff arm, Burfict came up limping and eventually left the game with a hip injury. He had two solo tackles in the game.
The Chiefs mostly shrugged off playing against Burfict — with coach Andy Reid declining to even comment on him specifically — but they made their point on the field Sunday. Earlier in the opening quarter, Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher slightly touched Burfict toward the conclusion of a play, and Burfict flopped to the ground, trying to draw a call. Fisher shrugged his shoulders in reaction.
Burfict later wrapped up Chiefs running back Spencer Ware on a tackle and didn’t let go of Ware’s left leg after the whistle, even twisting his body after he was clearly on the ground.
But it was Hunt who got the impactful word on a play that actually mattered. On his 15-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter, Hunt met Burfict in the open field and shed the one-on-one tackle. Hunt dived into the end zone, touching the pylon to finish off the play and give the Chiefs a 14-0 lead. Burfict watched from the grass.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">.<a href="https://twitter.com/PatrickMahomes5?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@PatrickMahomes5</a>'s 2nd TD pass of the night.<a href="https://twitter.com/Kareemhunt7?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Kareemhunt7</a>'s 2nd TD CATCH on the night.<br><br>The <a href="https://twitter.com/Chiefs?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Chiefs</a>!<br><br>: <a href="https://twitter.com/SNFonNBC?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@snfonnbc</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ChiefsKingdom?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ChiefsKingdom</a> <a href="https://t.co/AchjYU780q">pic.twitter.com/AchjYU780q</a></p>— NFL (@NFL) <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1054178693822566400?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 22, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Since his arrival in the NFL in 2012, this is essentially how it’s played out for Burfict. On the highlight reels for extracurriculars. He has been fined more than $400,000 in his career. He was once suspended three games for a hit on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman.
The NFL Network reported this week that the league was prepared to suspend Burfict for another action similar to the ones deemed improper against the Steelers, which included late hits and pushing over a running back after forward progress had been whistled.