Bengals headed to Super Bowl

How did we get here?


Bengal Believer: Ian Callon, math teacher, wears his Joe Burrow jersey to class on Feb. 11 prior to the Super Bowl. Callon said, “Who dey baby!” Photo by: RJ Plunkett

RJ Plunkett, Reporter

The Cincinnati Bengals have never won a superbowl, despite making two Super Bowl appearances in the 1980’s, losing to the San Francisco 49ers both times. The Bengals hope to change this as they prepare to face off with the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

The last time the Bengals won a playoff game was in 1991. The Bengals have a 373-459-5 franchise record. From 2009-2015, the Bengals made the playoffs six out of seven times but lost every single time in the first round. However, this season has been different.

The Bengals’ evolution as a team started in 2015. The 2015 Bengals went 12-4 and won the AFC North, and over the season they had a 140 point differential. The 2015 Bengals team was extremely different from today. The Super Bowl team now only has three players from the 2015 roster, including: CJ Uzomah (TE), Kevin Huber (P) and Trey Hopkins (C). The 2015 Bengals were led by a good offense while also having a phenomenal defense. The offense was led by Andy Dalton (QB), AJ Green (WR), Jeremy Hill (RB), Tyler Eifert (TE) and Andrew Whitworth (OT). The defense had a great deal of big name players: Pacman Jones (CB), Carlos Dunlap (DE), Geno Atkins (DT) and Vontaze Burfict (LB). 

This was supposed to be the team to win Cincinnati’s first ever Super Bowl. In week 14 of the 2015 season, Andy Dalton suffered a thumb injury, causing him to miss the rest of the regular season and the Wild Card game. This meant that AJ McCarron was left to start, the backup quarterback from Alabama.

On Jan. 9, 2016, the Bengals took another chance at the postseason in the Wild Card game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium. After the first three quarters the Steelers had the lead at 15-0, then the Bengals came alive in the fourth quarter. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Jeremy Hill had a rushing touchdown. The Bengals stopped the Steelers while on defense, and then got the ball back in good field position. While they didn’t score a touchdown, they did get a field goal. They got the ball back after stopping the Steelers, and AJ McCaron hit AJ Green for a 25-yard touchdown. The Bengals now led 16-10, and the Steelers had the ball at the 50-yard line. Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a pass to Antonio Brown and then the “play” happened. Antonio Brown didn’t catch the ball, and then Vontaze Burfict laid one of the dirtiest hits of all time. After missing the catch, Burfict made helmet to helmet contact with Brown. This hit caused Brown to pass out, and also a 15-yard penalty which put the Steelers in field goal range. The game ended in a two point loss.

After this season, the Bengals started to fall apart. Andy Dalton never had another season like the one he had in 2015, and AJ Green was never the same either. From 2016-2020, the Bengals had a record of 25 wins and 53 losses, with a 2-14 record in 2019. From 2018-2020 they finished last in their division every single time.

After the 2019 season, however, the Bengals knew a change needed to be made. 

When the 2020 draft came around, the Bengals knew exactly who they wanted to draft: Joe Burrow. Burrow started at quarterback for LSU during his junior year and had an average season after leaving Ohio State. He passed for 2894 yards and 16 TDs with 5 interceptions. His senior year, however, was much different. Burrow had arguably the greatest season in college football history. He passed for 5671 yards with 60 TDs to 6 interceptions. He led his team to a national championship while cruising through every team the Tigers faced. 

Burrow came into his rookie season with a lot of hype. In Burrow’s tenth game, Burrow was running out of the pocket and took an awkward hit. It turned out he tore his ACL and MCL in his left knee. In only ten games played, Burrow was sacked 32 times. 

Burrow was able to recover very well from the injury, and returned as the starter for the 2021 season. After finishing 4-11-1, the Bengals held the 5th overall pick in the draft. Common opinion was that the Bengals should take a lineman, and give Burrow the protection he deserved.

However, the Bengals had other ideas. The Bengals drafted Ja’Marr Chase, the receiver from LSU who was one of Burrow’s main targets in his iconic season at LSU. This season, Chase finished with 81 receptions for 1455 yards and 13 touchdowns. He broke the Bengals’ record for most yards in a season, and broke the record for most yards in a rookie season in the Super Bowl era. 

These two have formed an iconic dynamic duo who have helped them reach where they are today. Not only are these two players young, but the whole team is young. The Bengals have an average age of 25.6, which is the fifth lowest in the league. They still have much time to develop and get even better for seasons to come.

The Bengals play the LA Rams on Feb. 13, 2022 at 6:30 p.m.