The first Sunday of the NFL season is a glorious day. There’s a breath of hope among every NFL fan base. A little after 3 hours, a lot of the hope is gone. Not today for the Bengals. For the first time in the Zac Taylor era, the Bengals won week 1.
The Bengals won 27-24 in overtime against the Vikings. Bad coaching nearly costed the Bengals the game, but the Bengals stepped up when they needed to.
Towards the end of the 3rd quarter, the Bengals were up 21-7. They had the ball on their 30, and it was 4th and inches. Zac Taylor opted to go for it. The call didn’t work, and the Vikings got the ball off the turnover and quickly scored in response. The 4th down play call is what started the Vikings comeback. Taylor was crucified on twitter abd other platforms for going for it. To be fair, however, if the Bengals got the 1st down, that wouldn’t be the case. The problem wasn’t the decision, it was the play call. A stretch run to the right. The Vikings read it perfectly. Just a bad play call. However, the bad play call didn’t turn into a loss.
The offense wasn’t perfect, but had a really good day. Joe Burrow played like he never got injured. He went 20-27, 263 yards, and two touchdowns. He looked comfortable in the pocket, and it certainly seemed like his injury wasn’t impacting him mentally. His best play of the day came on the 4th down in overtime. With the Bengals getting the ball back inside of 2 minutes left in overtime after a Dalvin Cook fumble, they need a first down. It was 4th and inches, and Burrow called an audible at the line of scrimmage. That audible resulted in a 32 yard competition that set up the Evan McPherson game winning field goal. Ja’Marr Chase had a phenomenal NFL debut. Chase had 5 catches for 101 yards, and a touchdown. The touchdown came on a 50 yard fly route. A perfect throw by Burrow, and a perfect route and catch by Chase. The touchdown was very similar to Chase’s long touchdown reception in the 2020 touchdown championship game. The LSUFootball twitter account thought so as well:
Te Higgins caught the other Burrow touchdown pass, and had in total 4 catches for 58 yards. Tyler Boyd wasn’t used much in the offense, as he only had 3 catches for 32 yards. Joe Mixon had a great day. He had 29 rushes, 127 yards, and a touchdown. Mixon played a vital role in the offenses success. The offensive line gave up 5 sacks. Most of them came on blitz packages. However, you do not want Joe Burrow to be sacked 5 times. The offensive line had a great day in the running game. Whether it was a power run through the A gap or a sweep outside, the offensive linemen were able to make their blocks. That is something the Bengals didn’t have last year.
The defense had a strong performance. B.J. Hill, who the Bengals traded Billy Price for, had 2 sacks. Larry Ogunjobi also had a sack. Both Ogunjobi and DJ Reader had a heavy impact in keeping Dalvin Cook in check. Cook had 20 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown. Cook never took over the game, which made Kirk Cousins to throw more. Cousins did have 351 passing yards, but a good amount of those yards did not mount to points. Chidobe Awuzie had a strong day, as he mostly shadowed Justin Jefferson. Jessie Bates was all over the field (pay the man!).
Evan McPherson was one of the best players on the field. He hit a 53 yard field goal, and hit the 33 yard game winning field goal. No calve injuries this time. We have a kicker!
Overall, this was a great win for the Bengals. While there were many errors, the Bengals made a statement. Everyone thought the Vikings were going to win. The Bengals made a statement to the NFL that they aren’t a bottom tier team. Joe Burrow looked strong, Chase had an amazing debut, the defense played well, and we have our kicker. Week 1 was a great one.