Super Bowl LVI: The Cincinnati Bengals’ Road To The Super Bowl

Super Bowl LVI: The Cincinnati Bengals’ Road To The Super Bowl
Sat 12th February 2022

After 31 years of not winning a playoff game, the Cincinnati Bengals not only achieved that elusive victory but proceeded to make it all the way to their first Super Bowl since 1989. Just two years ago this team was getting ready to pick first overall in the draft; that pick would end up changing their franchise in the best way possible. 

The team selected Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow from Louisiana State University as the man who would anchor their franchise for years to come. During his rookie season, Burrow already looked to fit the part, but he, unfortunately, went down with a terrible injury in week 11 of his rookie season, tearing his ACL and MCL. 

That’s the kind of injury that can alter one’s career for the worse, but Burrow refused to let that happen. He came out ready this season and had a brand new weapon to throw to. In the 2021 draft, the Bengals selected Burrow’s former teammate at LSU, Ja’Marr Chase, who went on to break rookie receiving records and solidify himself as one of the game’s best receivers after only one season. 

Burrow ended up being the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year as he threw for 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns, propelling his way to stardom. As for Chase, his numbers were jaw-dropping, as the rookie receiver hauled in 1,455 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns, which included a 266 yard 3 touchdown game against the Kansas City Chiefs toward the end of the season. 

Still, as impressive as these two were, they weren’t the only ones on the Bengals’ offense, making noise. Veteran running back Joe Mixon made things easy for the pass offense as he inspired on the ground, rushing for over 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns. 

Burrow also has a solid receiving core that includes the likes of Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and tight-end CJ Uzomah. As a cherry on top, the team also had one of the NFL’s best kickers as rookie Evan McPherson was cool, calm, and collected this season. While the offense made big waves, they weren’t the only ones coming up big for the Bengals this season. 

The Bengals defense had some strong figures as well, as they were one of the NFL’s best teams at defending the run. They also had an absolute sack machine in Pro Bowl lineman Trey Hendrickson, who recorded 14 sacks this season. 

Hendrickson also got some great line help from the likes of Sam Hubbard and B.J. Hill. While their pass defense struggled at times, they still feel comfortable with the likes of Eli Apple and Vonn Bell in their secondary, who are both capable of making big plays.

These units came together to lead the Bengals to a 10-7 record this season which was good enough to win the always unpredictable AFC North. Throughout the season Cincinnati showed signs of greatness, but they also had some head-scratching losses that had some questioning their consistency. 

But at the end of the season a 41-21 thrashing of division rivals the Baltimore Ravens and then a massive 34-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, were two wins that gave the Bengals the momentum they needed going into the playoffs. 

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The Bengals captured their first playoff win since 1991, beating the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19 in a nail-biter that ended with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr throwing an interception in the Bengals’ red zone. For most Bengals fans that would’ve been enough to keep them satisfied after years of suffering. 

But Joe Burrow and Co. weren’t done yet. The following week they upset the number one seeded Tennessee Titans 19-16 after McPherson hit a game-winning field goal as time expired. Then for the AFC Championship, they rematched against the Kansas City Chiefs, the team they had a massive win against in week 17. 

The Chiefs got off to a hot start, leading the Bengals 21-10 at half. But, the Bengals fought back, taking the game to overtime at 24, and then winning on another McPherson field goal 27-24, to make their first Super Bowl since 1989. 

The Bengals are no longer a fairytale story. They’re a team that isn’t using their young stars as an excuse to come up short. They expect to win and to win now. They’ll have their hands full this Sunday against the Rams, but every week in this postseason they’ve been told that, and have continuously come out on top. Don’t be surprised if they do it again this weekend, on the biggest stage of all. 

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Michael is an avid follower of America's "Big Four" major sports, and a massive fan of European soccer. He may be a die-hard Seattle sports fan, but he's also one of their biggest critics—so there never has to be any fear over "biased picks." Michael makes sure to watch all games with a meticulous eye, so he can offer the highest quality picks and analysis for all readers.