Life has not been easy for Cincinnati Bengals fans recently. Their team has finished in last place in the AFC North the last three seasons, and finished third two years before that.
The Bengals had a different vibe at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday when they played host to the NFC North’s Minnesota Vikings, and the fan base seemed ready to explode when the Cats pulled out an overtime win 27-24.
Make no mistake, there were plenty of questions about how this Bengals team would come out in this opener.
Franchise quarterback Joe Burrow, who played in 10 games in 2020 before falling to injury, threw just three passes in the preseason, but he looked sharp in his first effort of the regular season. The defense also played with energy.
Overall, it was a solid effort that earned a win over a team that may make the postseason out of the NFC.
Here are a few observations about the game:
1. Burrow Makes More Believers
A number of people were not thrilled when QB Joe Burrow played just three snaps in the preseason, but he looked poised and in control when he led the Bengals’ offense on Sunday.
A couple of his throws were clutch. He even threw a 50-yard touchdown bomb to rookie Ja’Marr Chase that capped off a four-play, 75-yard drive that gave Cincy a 14-7 second-quarter advantage.
The play seemed to pick things up for the Bengals’ offense and got Burrow even more comfortable against the Vikings’ pass rush.
Burrow’s day went like this: 20-for-27 for 261 yards and two touchdowns. We shall see whether the Bears make adjustments to try and halt Burrow this Sunday.
2. Getting After It
The Bengals’ defense was downright ugly at points in 2020, but on Sunday, they looked like a more mature unit, despite some letdowns.
Cincinnati built a 24-14 lead early in the fourth quarter when Evan McPherson nailed a 53-yard field goal, but as things go in the NFL, the Vikings rallied and eventually tied the game on the final play of the 4th quarter. Vikings kicker Greg Joseph hit a 53-yard field goal of his own to make it 24-all as time expired.
The Bengals could have easily folded in overtime, and in the past, they probably would have. However, this time, they recovered a fumble and gave themselves a shot at the win.
3. A Solid Special Teams Day
Evan McPherson was a perfect 5-for-5 in his kicks on Sunday, hitting three extra points and a pair of field goals.
Maybe the easiest kick was the 33-yard field goal that sealed the 27-24 win after Burrow made a huge play on fourth down to keep the overtime drive alive. He also hit a 53-yard bomb early in the fourth quarter to give the Bengals a 24-14 lead.
Having a kicker you can count on is ultra-critical in the AFC North, especially once the weather starts to turn. It may be just one game, but it looks like the Bengals got a good one in McPherson.
This Sunday, the Bengals will travel to Chicago to take on the Bears at 1 pm ET.