3 games that helped pave way for Bengals to reach Super Bowl LVI
Week 1: Bengals hold on versus Vikings
The third season opener of the Zac Taylor era had an altogether different feel. It was the first season opener for Taylor at Paul Brown Stadium, and there was a legit buzz in the air. A healthy Joe Burrow can inspire confidence in anyone, but ownership had once again dumped a Brinks truck of money into free agency, and fans were stoked.
The addition of prized rookie Ja’Marr Chase, preseason slippery fingers notwithstanding, had the fans expecting fireworks. They weren’t disappointed. Burrow sizzled for 20-of-27, 261 yards, and two touchdowns, while Chase roasted old friend Mike Zimmer’s defense for five catches, 101 yards, and a long touchdown.
However as the game rolled into the fourth quarter, deja vu set in once again. In the two previous seasons the Bengals played hard and had chances to win on the road at Seattle, and at the Chargers respectively, but ultimately came up short.
Coincidentally or not both seasons spiraled into disaster. Neither of those teams was as talented as this one, but had either won the opener on the road, who knows how different the seasons could’ve been? A little confidence with a young team goes a long way.
Having seen this movie before, I packed up my tailgate and beat the traffic. My bad.
Greg Joseph, the Vikings’ kicker, tied the game for overtime. What I didn’t account for was the resilience of this team. The Bengal defense jarred the ball loose from Dalvin Cook in overtime, and Cincinnati won on the first of many Evan McPherson clutch kicks.
Had the Bengals folded once again and lost a heartbreaker in overtime, who’s to say the season wouldn’t have gone the direction of the previous two. Almost good enough, but not quite.
It’s my belief that this win helped lay the foundation for a team that knows if they keep fighting, they have the weapons to win in a pinch. The impact of Evan McPherson was first felt to this day and continues to resonate. Momentum and confidence are very powerful forces.