Week 14: Let your franchise do his thing
The Bengals entered December in a good position to make a playoff run. They had swept the Steelers and owned a road victory over the Ravens. An unexpected Week 13 loss to the Chargers at home left the Bengals hanging on at 7-5 in mid-December.
The Chargers and 49ers games were supposed to be the last weak stretch in Cincy before the Bengals finished with the Ravens, Chiefs and Browns, so back-to-back losses would not be ideal if the team were to make a playoff push.
Joe Burrow, obviously back to almost full health was masterful, posting a stat line of 25-of-34, 348 yards, and two touchdowns. Since nothing can be easy, the 49ers got the game to overtime. The Bengals won the toss, and the mood in the stadium was GAME OVER.
Joey Burrow had spent the afternoon shredding the 49er defense, and overtime was no different. The Bengals marched right down the field and the faithful in attendance were certain their almost five quarters of football would be rewarded with a walk-off win.
After three quick throws, the Bengals were at the Niner 26-yard line, a win seemed inevitable considering Burrow was on fire. The next three plays might be the most impactful of the season. Inexplicably, Taylor took the ball out of Burrow’s hands, instead opting to run twice for minimal gain and then drop back for a sack on third down.
Evan McPherson kicked the field goal, and San Francisco proceeded to march right down the field for the winning touchdown. There was absolutely no reason to suddenly get conservative when your franchise quarterback was playing at such an elite level. Yet Zac Taylor did.
This loss left the Bengals barely treading water with the Chiefs looming ahead Week 17. What happened next? Zac Taylor admitted he never should’ve taken the ball out of his quarterback’s hands, he hasn’t, and Burrow hasn’t lost since. Much credit to Zac Taylor.
Many more established coaches would have refused to rethink and adjust the way Taylor has. Taylor’s willingness to grow and learn with this job, as well as trust his star players to make star plays is as much responsible for this Super Bowl berth as anything done on the field.
There you go Bengal fans! In a season full of memorable moments and clutch plays, these are the three moments in my estimation that most led to where we are now. Hollywood BABY!
As a fan of a certain age, take my advice. Soak up every moment. Talk trash, watch the coverage, bask in it all. God forbid it could be 33 more years before this happens again! WHO DEY!