Mike Hughes and Jerick McKinnion
The Cincinnati Bengals punched a ticket to the Super Bowl on Sunday, topping the mighty Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship, 27-24.
Led by Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs have appeared in four consecutive home AFC Championships. Former Vikings Jerick McKinnon and Mike Hughes were on the team that lost to the Bengals on Sunday.
Selected by the Vikings in the 3rd Round of the 2014 NFL Draft from Georgia Southern, McKinnon spent four seasons on a rookie deal in Minnesota, tallying 2,902 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns. Because of Adrian Peterson’s suspension in 2014 and Dalvin Cook’s injury in 2017, McKinnon saw a bit of RB1 work with the Vikings. He was a jack of all trades, featured as a scatback with pass-catching and ball-carrying acumen.
After his rookie deal, he ventured to San Francisco for three years with the 49ers, playing just one season as injuries hampered his career in 2018 and 2019. During the playoffs of 2021, though, he was rejuvenated when the Chiefs finally allotted touches to the 30-year-old. Because running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was injury-riddled, McKinnon became the default RB1 for the Chiefs in the postseason.
His teammate Mike Hughes missed the Super Bowl by a whisker, too.
Hughes played 45% of defensive snaps for Kansas City in 2021 after a trade by former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman sent him to the AFC West. Spielman packaged a 7th-Round draft pick and Hughes to Kansas City for a 6th-Rounder in this April’s draft. That draft pick will be fulfilled by new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.
In 2021, Hughes notched a 79.6 score from Pro Football Focus, the best of his career. With the Vikings, Hughes missed half of all football games due to various injuries, evidently frustrating Spielman to the point of action. The Vikings were thin at cornerback in 2021, chiefly because Jeff Gladney was released last spring.
Hughes made highlights – in a bad way – last weekend when Buffalo Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis torched him for a touchdown in the Divisional Round.
For the Bengals, two ex-Vikings will experience the Super Bowl – Riley Reiff and Trae Waynes. Reiff is on injured reserve, and Waynes hasn’t seen much action on defense during the postseason despite playing 76% of defensive snaps in the regular season.
Cincinnati will play in a Super Bowl for the first time since the 1988 season.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).