The Rise of Joe Burrow and the Bengals

By JOHN BELL, Western Courier Columnist
The Cincinnati Bengals, one year removed from a two-win season, have found themselves in the 2021-2022 Super Bowl, awaiting either the 49ers or the Rams. But, how do they go from a 2 win season to winning their division, a division loaded in the AFC, with the Steelers, Ravens, and the Browns? They got their franchise centerpiece in Joe Burrow back from the torn ACL he suffered last year in week 11. The Bengals added a star wideout in Jamar Chase, who they selected in the first round out of LSU. Burrow and Chase were teammates at LSU during their Championship run in 2020, where they set numerous records, including an undefeated season. With the uprising in WR2 Tee Higgins and the consistent dominance in the run game, lead by Joe Mixon, the Bengals skill players were there all season for Joe Burrow, and they have shined throughout the postseason. 

The Bengals got off to a great start in the regular season, with a 3-1 record. Their one loss was a tough one to a Chicago Bears team that struggled to win football games and simply compete all season long. In that game, Burrow struggled, 250 yards through the air, with 2 touchdowns, but 3 interceptions and a lost fumble by Tee Higgins. The Bengals continued to compete in every game but suffered another tough loss to the New York Jets midway through the season. They finished the regular season with a 10-7 record, winning the AFC East and earning them the number 4 seed in the playoffs, and a date with the Vegas Raiders.

Burrow dominated during his sophomore season, throwing for 4,611 yards, tossing 34 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions. He added 118 yards on the ground with 2 touchdowns. Chase and Higgins both had 1,000-yard seasons, with Chase having 13 touchdowns during his rookie campaign, while Higgins added 6. Mixon rushed for 1,205 yards and added 13 touchdowns on the ground. Mixon was also big as a receiver out of the backfield. He caught 42 of his 48 targets for 314 yards and 3 touchdowns. The offense was ranked 13th in the NFL in total yards gained, while their defense was ranked 18th in total yards allowed. Middle of the pack in terms of both rankings, but they have played great football during the postseason.

They defeated the Bengals in regulation, as it came down to the final drive, but the defense held strong and was able to keep Carr and the offense out of the endzone. In the divisional round, Evan McPherson hit a game-winning 52-yard field goal as time expired in regulation to knock off the number one seed Tennessee Titans. Then on championship Sunday, trailing by as much as 18 in the first half, the Bengals battled back with great play from their defense, who did not allow a score for over 2 quarters. In overtime, a batted ball by Jessie Bates III, intended for Tyreke Hill, was picked off by Von Bell. The Bengals drove down the field and then once again, the steady leg of McPherson hit the game-winner from 31 yards out to send them to the Super Bowl.

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