For the first time ever, Zac Taylor won the season opener.
It was closer than it should have been. The Cincinnati Bengals had a 21-7 lead in the third quarter, but a controversial fourth down call helped the Minnesota Vikings start a comeback.
Just when it looked like the Vikings were about to attempt the game-ending field goal, the Bengals got a crucial turnover. One gutsy fourth down call later, and the rookie kicker seals the 27-24 victory.
For the first time in a while, the Bengals are actually living up to what they have been promising.
Towards the end of his tenure, Marvin Lewis promised he would turn over a new leaf. He never did, and lost his job. Then, Taylor came in and promised to turn things around. That didn’t happen in Year 1. The next year, the Bengals promised an exciting season with Joe Burrow and $100 million worth of free agents on defense. Again, that never happened.
This year, the Bengals an improved offensive line, dangerous weapons, and the final form of Lou Anarumo’s defense. For at least one game, they delivered.
Here’s what we learned from the Bengals’ Week 1 win over the Vikings.
Bengals fans are awesome
The fans were back at full capacity in Paul Brown Stadium for the first time since 2019.
The Vikings felt it, and their first drive stalled due to false starts.
Taylor credited the fans to not only helping with the false starts, but for many of the other 12 accepted penalties against the Vikings.
“Don’t think for a second,” he said, “That doesn’t play into the holding calls, guys getting late jumps off of snaps, all that stuff...it was a big deal for us.”
So, well done, Bengals fans. In a three-point game, the home field advantage may have been the difference.
Zac Taylor will be aggressive
Say what you will about that fourth down decision, that’s Zac Taylor for you.
He said the Bengals were up 21-7, but he wanted to go up 28-7.
The Bengals went for it on fourth down a total of three times, and only failed on that ill-fated attempt at their own 30-yard line.
Taylor went for it a lot last year, and actually converted 70 percent of his attempts. In fact, the Bengals led the league in fourth down conversions last season.
Not only did the Bengals go for it three times, but they were aggressive on defense as well. In crucial defensive situations, the Bengals sent the house at Kirk Cousins.
This is why we wanted to get rid of Lewis, and this is what we’re getting in Taylor.
Evan McPherson was worth the pick
Another Week 1, another potential game-winning kick.
Last year, Randy Bullock missed a 31-yard kick, which was a shorter kick than the three he had already made in that game, including the extra point.
In the 2021 opener, Evan McPherson sank a 33-yard field goal to win the game in overtime.
He said that this was his first “walk-off” field goal in his life. Amazingly, he kept his cool in one of the most stressful situations of his playing career.
McPherson also nailed a 53-yarder, a difficult kick for the first of his pro career. His field goals were the last two scores for the Bengals. If not for McPherson, the Bengals could have lost 24-21.
Basically put, the Bengals traded a fifth round pick in the draft for a win in Week 1. How many wins will the Bengals squeeze out of McPherson this season?
So much of the Bengals’ highlights were put on by recent additions from this offseason.
We already talked about McPherson, the rookie from the fifth round of the 2021 draft. Ja’Marr Chase is another draft pick from this year to contribute to the winning effort. Chase was the Bengals’ leading receiver, with five receptions, 101 yards, and a score.
Larry Ogunjobi was another key component in the win. He added one sack and two TFLs to the box score. Chidobe Awuzie was credited with two passes defended, and Mike Hilton recorded a TFL. Three of the big names the Bengals signed on defense this year have already been important players for this team.
A pleasant surprise came from the Billy Price trade last week. B.J. Hill had two sacks, which led the team. The Bengals basically got two sacks in exchange for a player they were probably going to cut
Burrow and Chase will be fine
Consider the narratives about Burrow and Chase officially put to rest.