Analysis: What we learned from Cincinnati Bengals OT win against Minnesota Vikings
The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Minnesota Vikings 27-24 on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium and begin the season 1-0. The fans in attendance were given an overtime thriller in Week 1.
After a slow start offensively, the game changed for the Bengals when quarterback Joe Burrow started connecting with rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase in the second quarter. Burrow found Chase on a critical third-and-7 play, which kept the Bengals’ offensive drive going. Three plays later, Burrow found wide receiver Tee Higgins for Cincinnati’s first touchdown of the game.
Bengals vs. Vikings:Cincinnati wins in NFL Week 1 after OT drama
Minnesota had 11 penalties for 106 yards in the first half and several holding calls coupled with a solid defensive effort from the Bengals allowed Burrow and Co. one more scoring opportunity before the half.
Burrow and Chase made the Vikings pay as they connected on 50-yard touchdown play to go extend their lead to 14-7 as the crowd erupted with excitement. The Bengals appeared to have taken control of the game when they scored on the opening drive of the second half to make it 20-7 as running back Joe Mixon scored his first touchdown of the year.
Cincinnati’s next offensive drive ended in head coach Zac Taylor decided to go for it on 4th-and- 1 from the 30-yard line and the Bengals were unsuccessful. The decision allowed the Vikings to take over with great field position and quarterback Kirk Cousins and wide receiver Adam Thielen made them pay for the gamble.
The momentum completely changed. Kicker Evan McPherson’s 53-yard field goal at the start of the fourth quarter made it 24-14 but the Vikings responded once again. With less than two minutes to go, the Vikings started with the ball on the five-yard line and marched down the field to get into field goal range. Minnesota kicker Greg Joseph 53-yard field goal to tie the game 24-24 to end regulation.
Cincinnati’s offense got the ball first to start the overtime period but failed to move the ball. Burrow was sacked on third down and the Bengals were forced to punt but the defense made a stand once again. The Bengals completely stalled out on offense in the fourth quarter and in overtime and it was the defense who saved the day. Safety Jessie Bates forced the lone turnover of the game, a fumble, and gave Cincinnati one more chance to win the game.
Burrow made the play of the game on fourth-and-1 when he made a check at the line of scrimmage to drop back and find tight end C.J. Uzomah to set up the 33-yard McPherson game-winning field goal.
Ja’Marr Chase shines in rookie debut
Ja’Marr Chase was drafted to create explosive plays for the Bengals and he did exactly that on Sunday. On a go-route, Chase ran by Vikings’ cornerback Bashaud Breeland with ease and Burrow perfectly placed the ball in his hands. Chase’s 50-yard touchdown was his first touchdown in the NFL and celebrated accordingly.
"I was excited," Chase said. "I saw the ball in the air and was pretty excited. That same play, we’ve worked on in practice, and I knew the audible was coming, so it felt like practice out there."
Chase, a former LSU star, made it known who started the popular Louisiana dance, “The Griddy” as he said he would if he scored first.
Not only was Chase’s touchdown significant for the Bengals from a momentum standpoint, it also put to rest any worry the first-round pick would struggle to do his job. Chase had a number of drops in training camp the preseason.
Chase finished with five catches for 101 yards on the day.
Investment to bolster defensive line appears to be paying off
Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi was the best player on the defensive side of the ball for the Bengals and it wasn’t close. Ogunjobi signed a one-year prove it deal with Cincinnati in free agency and he showed he could be the difference-maker the team needs up front.
After finishing No. 29 in the NFL in rush defense and No. 32 in sacks in 2020, the Bengals looked drastically defense up front. Ogunjobi led the group with his interior pressure and he finished the game with two tackles for loss, one sack and one quarterback hit. Defensive tackles Josh Tupou and B.J. Hill consistently made plays as well. Hill led the team in sacks with two.
"That’s why you invest in your defense," Taylor said following the game. "Those guys stepped up. There’s a lot of things we can clean up all over the map for the whole team. But when it mattered, those guys collapsed the pocked and put pressure on the quarterback, and a lot of that that stems with coverage as well."
Cincinnati consistently made Cousins uncomfortable in the pocket as they had seven quarterback hits and three sacks in the win.
Burrow could be scary for Bengals' opponents going forward
Burrow looks like himself and that could be scary for Bengals’ opponents moving forward.
Burrow’s return to the field dominated the offseason in terms of storylines surrounding the Bengals. After his rookie season was cut short to 10 games after suffering a torn ACL/MCL in November of 2020, Burrow looked impressive in his first regular-season game action since the injury and threw for 218 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite completing 20-of-27 passes giving him a quarterback rating of 128.8 for the day and leading his team on the game-winning drive, Burrow believes he can play better. And that's scary.
“I think I could have played a little better, but it’s great to get the win in Game 1," Burrow said. "I played decent, but there’s always areas where you can improve."
Burrow was sacked five times in the win and the interior play of the offensive line will continue to be a position to watch as the season gets rolling. An area Burrow needed to take a step forward in this season is his accuracy when throwing the ball deep. Although it's a small sample size, Burrow connecting with Chase on the 50-yard play showed he's improved in that aspect of his game.