Few, if any, saw this coming when the Cincinnati Bengals season started. If you are one of them, one of the small number of people that predicted the Bengals would be playing in the Super Bowl on Feb. 13 in SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, after finishing last in the AFC North with a record of 4-11-1 a season ago, you’re an incredible fan with a strong belief.
The Bengals continued their fairytale season this past Sunday with a 27-24 comeback overtime win over the Kansas City Chiefs on the road to become AFC champions for the first time since 1988.
“It’s a special team that’s capable of doing special things,” said 38-year-old Zac Taylor, now in his third season as the team’s head coach.
“We’ve said that from the get-go, whether people believed us or not,” concluded the former 2006 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year as a quarterback for Nebraska. “We believed. So we’re not surprised.”
Ironically, Taylor will spend his time leading up to Super Bowl LVI (56) preparing to play the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams, for whom he worked as their assistant wide receivers coach (2017) and quarterbacks coach (2018) before being hired by the Bengals as a first time head coach in 2019.
Maybe during his interview process with Bengals executives, Taylor impressed them with his answers regarding halftime adjustments because for the second time over the past five weeks Cincinnati came back to defeat the Chiefs after being down going into the locker room. In Week 17 of the regular season the Bengals trailed 28-17 at home and won 34-31.
Down 21-10 at the half on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, the Bengals shut down the Chiefs’ offense and their star quarterback Patrick Mahomes for the next two quarters and overtime, holding them to just a field goal by Harrison Butker as time expired in regulation.
The Chiefs won the coin toss and started OT with the ball. But Mahomes threw an interception trying to hit wide receiver Tyreek Hill on a deep route and the Bengals took over, led by the talented second-year quarterback Joe Burrow, who took them on a nine-play, 42-yard drive ending with a game-winning 31-yard field goal by rookie Evan McPherson.
“When you’re up 21-3 at any point in the game, you can’t lose it,” Mahomes said. “I put that on myself.”
Burrow credited the Bengals’ defense for keeping them in the game. “Our defense really stepped up and made plays in the second half,” said the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft out of LSU.
“If you told me that we were going to the Super Bowl at the beginning of the season, I would’ve called you crazy.”