WHAT. A. GAME.
The Bengals were winning 21-7 when Zac Taylor made the controversial decision to go for it on fourth down at his own 30-yard line. The Bengals didn’t get it, and the Vikings got an easy touchdown on the short field. The Vikings went on a 17-3 run to finish regulation after that play.
Joe Burrow looked like his normal self after a slow start. He finished 20/27 passing for 261 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. However, he took a sack in the fourth quarter and came up limping. After that, the Bengals abandoned the pass, which caused the offense to come to a halt. Whether Burrow was dinged, or whether Taylor was being overprotective, the offense was too conservative in the fourth quarter and overtime.
After Ja’Marr Chase had problems with drops in the preseason, he had a great game to start his career. He caught five of the seven balls thrown his way for 100 yards and a touchdown.
The Bengals’ new and improved defense looked like a completely different unit from the 2020 defense. The line made life very uncomfortable for Kirk Cousins, with three sacks and multiple offensive line penalties. For the most part, the secondary had a great game as well.
Dalvin Cook was pretty much the only thing going well for the Vikings. He had 20 carries and six receptions as Cousins’ safety net.
That said, Bengals fans were certainly happy to be back in full force at Paul Brown Stadium.
The crowd was loud, and it was disruptive as the Vikings were called three times for a false start on the opening drive. The penalties put the offense behind the chains, which helped to force a punt.
The Bengals’ defense consistently attacked the Vikings, limiting Dalvin Cook to only 1.8 yards per carry on the first three drives.
On the other side of the ball, the Bengals played very conservatively. Joe Burrow completed three of five passes for only 15 yards. Through one quarter, the Bengals only had 14 yards of total offense on 11 plays.
The Vikings got the ball to start the second quarter, and Cook had several crucial receptions to move the offense. Justin Jefferson had a long reception and oddly a long pass that got the Vikings to the red zone.
A defensive holding call took the Vikings to the five-yard line, and Kirk Cousins hit a wide-open Adam Thielen for the touchdown. Greg Joseph’s extra point was good, so the Vikings took an early 7-0 lead with 6:39 left in the half.
Responding to the score, the Bengals found Ja’Marr Chase for his first two career receptions. He was the only receiver with a catch at that point, which was a relief given his drop issues during the preseason. A pass interference penalty on Tee Higgins took the Bengals down to the three-yard line at the two-minute warning.
Higgins finally got a catch two plays later for a two-yard score. Rookie kicker Evan McPherson made his first career extra point, and the Bengals tied the game with 1:47 remaining until halftime.
The Bengals got one more shot before halftime. Burrow and Chase pulled a play out of their LSU playbook, and with 35 seconds left, the Bengals scored on a 50-yard bomb. Chase scored his first career touchdown on the deep ball, and with McPherson’s extra point, the Bengals took a 14-7 lead in the locker room.
While the Bengals’ offense was bland in the first quarter, they turned on the nitrous in the second. Burrow had 121 passing yards in the second quarter, completing all eight of his passes. In his first half of professional football, Chase had three targets, three receptions, 80 yards, and a touchdown.
The Bengals' defense looked formidable as they not only had two sacks but forced three holding calls on D.J. Reader. Newcomers like Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie had some great plays in the first half. The only problem on defense was Eli Apple, who was in for the injured Trae Waynes.
Penalties also helped the Bengals, as the Vikings had 14 in the first half. The Bengals only had one for five yards.
The Bengals received the second-half kick and did more of the same. After beating the Viking secondary, the running game opened up for Mixon. The Bengals gained 6.8 yards per play on the 11-play, 75-yard drive. Mixon had 22 rushing yards on the drive, with a two-yard touchdown to finish the drive.
The Bengals had back-to-back scores to bookend the halftime break and totaled 21 unanswered to take a 21-7 lead with 9:15 to go in the quarter.
The Bengals decided to go for it on fourth down, having a 70 percent success rate in 2020. But they didn’t convert and gave the ball back to the Vikings on the 30-yard line. The Vikings then went for it on fourth down and connected with Thielen.
It was a footrace to the end zone against Hilton, but Thielen won and got the Vikings back on the board. The extra point was good, and the Bengals still led 21-14 with 2:24 left in the quarter.
The Bengals would let McPherson attempt his first career field goal from 53 yards. The rookie kicker buried the kick in the net behind the goal post, and the Bengals extended their lead to 24-14 with 14:13 to go in the game.
The Vikings needed a score, and they marched methodically down the field on their next possession. They only gained five yards per play on their first eight plays, but Justin Jefferson broke several tackles to extend the ninth play to 34 yards.
Jefferson was ruled down at the one, and Cook drove it in from there. While the Vikings got the touchdown, they also used two timeouts, which would be a factor for the rest of the game, as the Viking trailed 24-21 with 9:23 left in the game.
The Bengals’ last possession came with under five minutes to go. The Bengals kept handing off to Mixon, who got over 100 yards for the 11th time in his career. But they were unable to convert on third down, so they pinned the Vikings inside their own five-yard line. The Vikings did make it to the 35-yard line to set Joseph up for a 53-yard field goal. Joseph made it, and the Vikings forced overtime.
Neither offense was effective to start in overtime. But after trading punts, the Vikings won the field position battle. When it looked like the Vikings were getting ready to kick the game-winning field goal, Jessie Bates forced a fumble that Germaine Pratt recovered. The fumble stood up to review, and the Bengals got fresh life after the game’s first turnover.
With 1:48 to take advantage of the turnover, the Bengals got down to fourth and inches. Burrow threw a gutsy ball to C.J. Uzomah for a gain of 32 yards on a do-or-die play to get the ball to the 20-yard line. Burrow spiked the ball and put the game at the feet of McPherson with five seconds to go. The rookie kicker drilled the 35-yard kick to give the Bengals a 27-24 overtime win.
1-0, folks, so time to celebrate!