Leave it to the Cincinnati Bengals to win their season opener in an overtime thriller.
We’ll admit there was a moment when we didn’t think they could do it, right around when head coach Zac Taylor decided to go for it on a fourth down in the Bengals territory at the end of the game.
When Kirk Cousins led a 60-yard field goal drive to send the game to overtime, we’ll also admit we were shaking our heads, ready to turn off the television and badmouth Taylor for the rest of the day.
But Cincinnati turned it around not because of Taylor’s coaching, but in spite of it.
And Cincinnati won the game not by the act of a miracle, but by the collective efforts and strengths of a Bengals team that (dare we say it?) actually looks good heading into 2021.
To name a few standouts:
Burrow. 261 yards and two touchdowns for an average of 9.7 yards per throw.
His first game back from injury doesn’t get much better than this.
Despite a scary sack that had Burrow slightly limping off the field, he played the best game of his career so far — and his career is just getting started.
The Bengals star quarterback found mismatches down the field, improvised in the pocket, and continued to play well under pressure. Burrow threw picture-perfect passes to Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase (who deserves his own paragraph), and that well-oiled arm of his didn’t stop in overtime. On a 4th-and-1, Burrow found tight end C.J. Uzomah on a 32-yard pass to set up the game-winning field goal.
Burrow’s back, tell a friend.
Cincinnati Bengals win their first game of the season, no thanks to Zac Taylor
Burrow’s most targeted man, Ja’Marr Chase, played like he had a chip on his shoulder after the whole “NFL ball” fiasco. Luckily for him, you can’t exactly put a good performance out of context.
Chase finished the game with 101 receiving yards and one touchdown with a long of 50 yards.
What’s that? You thought Chase had buttery hands in preseason?
Well, Chase caught five of seven passes this game, and while that’s not a perfect record, it’s pretty damn good for a rookie, especially one who has been under arguably the most scrutiny in recent weeks.
We didn’t forget the man who ultimately won the match: Evan McPherson. If Cincinnati was anxious they’d have another Jake Elliott situation on their hands, McPherson punted their worries away on Sunday. He went 2-for-2 on field goals and 3-for-3 on extra point completions, including a 35-yarder in extra time to give Cincinnati their first season victory.
That’s right: 1-0. Look at it and marvel.
We also didn’t forget Cincinnati’s defense, who we think should collectively be named the man of the match.
While Minnesota’s offense did look dead in the water by the fourth quarter, the Bengals defense played a huge part in this victory. The unit recorded three sacks, six quarterback hits, and plenty of pressures to keep Cousins, Jefferson, and Thielen at bay.
The run defense also held Dalvin Cook to just 61 rushing yards and one touchdown, and you can thank safety Jessie Bates for that final play when Bates tackled Cook to win the ball back with two minutes remaining in overtime.
Given that Cincinnati’s offense and defense were firing on all fronts, this game shouldn’t have been that close. If it weren’t for Taylor’s controversial decision, the Bengals probably would have secured the win earlier.
We can put that in the past, for now. Cincinnati have nabbed the win to start the season, and we couldn’t have asked for a more entertaining game or a better result.