Just two weeks after winning their first playoff game in 31 years, and two seasons after going 2-14, and one year after going 4-11-1, the Bengals are going to the Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium on February 13th.
The Bengals are 0-2 in Super Bowl history, losing to the San Francisco 49ers in both 1981 and 1988. The 49ers face the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday afternoon for the right to play Cincinnati in two weeks.
The Cincinnati Bengals are coached by Zac Taylor, who was hired off of Sean McVay’s staff after two years as an offensive assistant; first as assistant wide receivers coach, then as Jared Goff’s quarterback coach during his best NFL season in 2018. Taylor went 2-14 in his first season and was given slack because of how bad the Bengals had become at that point, but survived being fired after a disappointing 4-11-1 finish in 2020.
But Joe Burrow, the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, did miss six games with a torn ACL during his rookie season. Burrow was ready by Week 1 though and Cincinnati beat the Minnesota Vikings 27-24 in overtime. The Bengals were off to a 5-2 start, then lost back to back games to the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns.
Following a bye week, the Bengals won five of their next seven games, including a 34-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs; they also lost 44-21 to the Chargers and 26-23 to the 49ers in overtime at home. Cincinnati clinched their AFC North title by Week 18 and sat Burrow in what would be another loss to the Browns—a team that many felt would be here by now. Not the Bengals.
However, Cincinnati faced a favorable home game against the Las Vegas Raiders in the wild card round and won 26-19, then picked off Ryan Tannehill in the final minute to beat the Tennessee Titans 19-16 in the divisional round. On Sunday, the Bengals fell behind 21-3 on the road to Patrick Mahomes, but scored 18 unanswered points to force a tie in the fourth quarter. The teams exchanged field goals and went to overtime, where Mahomes got the ball first, just like he did in an overtime win over the Buffalo Bills a week earlier.
Except that this time, Mahomes was picked off by the defense and it was the Bengals who drove down the field for a game-winning field goal by star rookie kicker Evan McPherson. The Bengals are one win shy of winning their first Super Bowl championship but they must beat the winner of the NFC.
We will find out who that is shortly.