Joe Burrow, the quarterback for the Bengals, sat with his legs crossed and his eyes fixed ahead as the locker room gradually emptied. It’s understandable if he’s still trying to wrap his head around what went down in Cincinnati’s season opener. The Bengals lost 23-20 in overtime to the Pittsburgh Steelers after enduring a rough performance marked by many fumbles and an erratic kicking game.
Burrow had five mistakes, and the Bengals squandered two opportunities to win the game in Cincinnati’s first game since Super Bowl LVI, leading to a disappointing outcome.
Coach of the Bengals Zac Taylor: “We had our opportunities.” Disappointingly, “kick operations were botched on two kicks that would have won the game,” as the team lost the turnover fight 5-1. To stop a three-game losing slide to their AFC North rivals, the Steelers won in overtime on a field goal by Chris Boswell from 53 yards out.
To make matters worse, Burrow also lost a fumble and threw a career-high four interceptions in the loss. Six times he was let go from his job. The Bengals’ chances of pulling off the miraculous victory were not completely dashed, though.
As Burrow put it, “Obviously, you don’t want to throw four picks.” I never once felt fear, though. We kept our cool and made a comeback that put us ahead again.
A 6-yard touchdown pass from Burrow to wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase in the final two seconds of regulation time tied the game at 20. Steelers defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who scored a touchdown by returning an interception on Cincinnati’s opening drive, stopped the extra point.
In the overtime session, Cincinnati’s special teams had a chance to make amends. Evan McPherson, kicking for the Bengals, missed an overtime field goal from 29 yards out. Both of the kicks were taken by Cincinnati Bengals long snapper Mitchell Wilcox, a tight end for the team.
Evan McPherson just SMASHED this 59-yard FG 👀
The longest in @Bengals franchise history.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 11, 2022
As the team’s starter since 2009, Clark Harris, was sidelined for the rest of regulation and overtime after injuring his right bicep. Wilcox, who claimed to have been a long snapper in high school and backup at the University of South Florida, was promoted to the position.
The first one, Wilcox says, “we had a chance on.” It was merely impeded. And I’ll pay for the second one. I need to provide a more effective snap for [punter Kevin Huber].
With 2:27 remaining in OT, Boswell also missed a 55-yard game-winning field goal. His attempt at a game-winning kick flew wide left and hit the left upright, keeping the score tied until the final seconds of overtime.
Despite having a huge lead in turnovers, Pittsburgh still lost. The Steelers’ total yardage was capped at 267 by the Cincinnati defense. Mitch Trubisky, making his first start at quarterback for the Steelers, completed 21 passes out of 38 attempts for 194 yards and one touchdown. Running back Najee Harris of the Steelers was limited to 23 yards on 10 carries and had to leave the game due to a foot injury.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin remarked of his team’s offensive output, “It was enough.” The Bengals won their division and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2015 last season thanks in large part to two blowout victories over the Steelers. This postseason journey led to the team’s first postseason victory in 31 years and their first trip to the Super Bowl since 1989.
Last season, Cincinnati several times did just enough to win by the narrowest of margins. The Bengals came close to a victory on Sunday despite a series of misfortunes that plagued their game.
Instead, they had the chaos of a season-opening loss to attempt to make sense of. Tyler Boyd, a wide receiver with the Bengals, remarked, “A loss is a loss.” That we had a chance and blew it stings just as much.
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