Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.
Television: The game will air on FOX-TV. In the Bengals’ home region, it will be carried by WXIX-TV (Ch. 19) in Cincinnati, WGRT-TV (Ch. 45) in Dayton, WDKY-TV (Ch. 56) in Lexington, and WTTE-TV (Ch. 28) in Columbus. Broadcasters are Kevin Kugler (play-by-play), Mark Sanchez (analyst) and Laura Okmin (reporter).
Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).
The game also will air nationally on Sports USA Radio, with broadcasters Larry Kahn (play-by-play) and Mark Carrier (analyst).
Setting the scene: The Bengals this week travel to Chicago to face the Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday at 1 p.m. Cincinnati will be looking to ride the momentum of a thrilling overtime win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
“We found a way to win in all three phases,” said Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. “I told the team that there were times today it looked pretty dark, and I think a lot of people would probably agree with me there, but we got the win.”
The victory came courtesy of the right leg of rookie K Evan McPherson, who booted a game-winning 33-yard FG as time expired in OT. McPherson’s kick came after Minnesota had made a game-tying 53-yard FG as time expired in regulation. The contest went down as the first in NFL history in which there was a game-tying score with zero seconds remaining in regulation and a game-winning score with zero seconds remaining in overtime.
“It was Evan’s first career game, so I don’t care how far that field goal is,” Taylor said after the win. “That’s an intense situation, and he was ‘nails,’ as we expected him to be.”
With the kick, McPherson (22 years, 53 days old) became the youngest player in league history to convert a game-winning FG in overtime.
The game also was notable for being the return of Bengals QB Joe Burrow, who played for the first time since his season-ending left knee injury last November. After a long rehab process, Burrow fulfilled his public vow that he would start Cincinnati’s season-opener. The second-year QB didn’t show many signs of rust either, posting career-highs in passer rating (128.8), completion percentage (74.1) and yards per attempt (9.6). In the first half alone – his very first action since the injury last November – he posted a 149.2 passer rating and
had as many TDs (two) as he did incompletions (11-for-13 passing). Burrow finished off the game with a seven-play, 46-yard drive in overtime that set up the winning FG. That drive was highlighted by perhaps the play of the day, when on fourth-and-inches with 39 seconds remaining in OT, Burrow changed the play at the line of scrimmage and tossed a 32-yard pass to TE C.J. Uzomah to get the Bengals to the Vikings’ 20-yard line. McPherson’s kick came three plays later.
“We ran a QB sneak earlier in the game, so they put a guy over center and then set two shading over the guards,” Burrow explained of the dramatic conversion. “It was going to be tough to run the ball up the middle, so we had a second play called, and that’s what I got to at the line. We’ve run that play multiple times over the last couple of years, and I don’t think we’ve thrown it to C.J. once. But he was ready for it.”
Burrow got a significant lift from his supporting cast in his first game back. HB Joe Mixon, who himself was returning to action after a foot injury ended his 2020 campaign in October, burst back onto the scene with 127 rushing yards on 29 carries. His rushing total was the highest of any player across the league in Week 1.
The other major contributor on offense was rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase, who had five catches for 101 yards and a TD in his NFL debut. Chase, Cincinnati’s first-round pick in April’s draft, became the youngest Bengal (21 years, 195 days) ever to post 100 receiving yards, the third-youngest Bengal ever to score a TD, and the first Bengal with a receiving TD in his NFL debut since A.J. Green in 2011. Additionally, Chase’s 50-yard TD catch at the end of the first half was the longest TD of any kind by a Bengals rookie in their NFL debut.
“That’s the expectation,” Chase said when asked about the offense’s potential. “We’ve got Joe Burrow at quarterback – that’s a real quarterback. We’ve got nothing to do but lean on Joe and have Joe tell us what to do, and vice-versa. We’re one unit, one team, and we’ve got to get the job done.”
On the other side of the ball for Cincinnati, the defense held Minnesota, a top-five offense a year ago, in check for much of the contest. The play of the game on defense came courtesy of LB Germaine Pratt, who forced and recovered a fumble by Vikings RB Dalvin Cook with two minutes remaining in OT and Minnesota nearing range for a game-winning FG. “I knew I had it,” Pratt said of the fumble. “There was no doubt in my mind. We needed a play, and we’d all been preaching about getting to the ball and winning the turnover battle. It was an opportunity to go against one of the league’s best backs, but he had five fumbles last year, so I thought it was great opportunity to take the ball away.”
Cincinnati’s defense as a whole caused problems for Minnesota all day, and those issues were magnified by the crowd at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati’s defensive line stole the show on defense, posting three sacks, five additional QB hits and two additional tackles for losses, all while holding Cook to just 3.1 yards per carry. Together, the crowd teamed with the Bengals’ defense to force 12 Vikings penalties for 116 yards, including five offensive holding penalties (all along the offensive line) and five for false starts.
This week, the Bengals travel to Chicago to face a Bears team led by a familiar face in QB Andy Dalton, a 2011 second-round pick of the Bengals who served as Cincinnati’s starter for nine seasons. Additionally, the Bears’ offense is coordinated by Bill Lazor, who was the Bengals’ offensive coordinator in 2018.
“Andy obviously has been playing at a high level for a long time,” Taylor said. “He’s a smart player who is going to put his team in a great position to do really good things. We certainly have our work cut out for us.”
Chicago enters Sunday’s matchup at 0-1, after losing 34-14 at the L.A. Rams on Sunday night.
The series: Though they are relatively close geographical neighbors, the Bengals and Bears have played infrequently, with Cincinnati holding a 6-5 series lead.
Outside of the relatively new franchise Carolina, 11 is tied for the fewest number of all-time games between the Bengals and any opponent. The only other long-established NFL teams that the Bengals have played just 11 times are the N.Y. Giants (the Bengals lead 6-5) and the Washington Football Team (the series is tied 5-5-1).
The Bengals have lost the last two meetings with Chicago, 24-21 in 2013 at Chicago and 33-7 in 2017 at Cincinnati.
Home-field advantage has not been a factor in the Cincinnati-Chicago series. The Bengals lead 4-2 at Chicago and trail 3-2 as the home team.
Bengals-Bears connections: Bears QB Andy Dalton originally was a second-round pick of the Bengals in 2011, and was with the team through the ’19 season … Bears RB David Montgomery is from Cincinnati (Mount Healthy High School) … Bengals WR Mike Thomas is from Chicago (DuSable High School), and played one season (2012) at the College of Dupage in Glen Ellyn, Ill. (outside Chicago) … Bears QB Justin Fields played at Ohio State University … Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was with the Bengals from 2016-18, and was offensive coordinator in ’18 … Bears offensive analyst/special projects coach Tom Herman was born in Cincinnati and coached at Ohio State University from 2012-14 … Bears LB Patrick Scales is from Louisville, Ky. … Bengals LB Keandre Jones (practice squad) originally was a college free agent signee of the Bears in 2020 … Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan was born in Champaign, Ill. … Bengals strength and conditioning coach Joey Boese is from Chicago and coached at the University of Illinois from 2016-18 … Bengals assistant strength and conditioning coach Todd Hunt coached at the University of Illinois in 2018 … Bengals assistant strength and conditioning coach Garrett Swanson coached at the University of Illinois from 2017-18 … Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey played at Ohio State University in 1995, and then coached at Kentucky Christian University from 2011-12 … Bears defensive quality control coach Shane Toub played offensive line at the University of Dayton from 2013-16.
At the top of the list: Here’s a look at where the Bengals rank – both individually and in team categories – among the top 10 in the NFL.
BENGALS OFFENSE Seventh in yards per play on first downs (6.72). Seventh in rushing yards per game (149.0). Tied for eighth in fourth-down efficiency (66.7 percent; two for three). BENGALS DEFENSE Second in yards per play allowed on first downs (3.68). Fourth in rushing yards allowed per attempt (3.0). Sixth in rushing yards allowed per game (67.0). JOE BURROW Fifth in passer rating (128.8). Eighth in yards per attempt (9.67). Eighth in completion percentage (74.1). JOE MIXON First in rushing yardage (127). First in rushing attempts (29). Tied for second in first downs (eight; six rushing, two receiving). Fourth in yards from scrimmage (150). JA’MARR CHASE Tied for fifth in third-down receptions (three). DARIUS PHILLIPS First in punt returns (five). Fifth in punt return average (10.6). B.J. HILL Tied for second in sacks (2.0). GERMAINE PRATT Tied for second in fumble recoveries (one). EVAN MCPHERSON Tied for ninth in points by a kicker (nine)
Roster flip noticeable in Year 3: Zac Taylor took over as Bengals head coach in 2019, and throughout his now three-year tenure there has been a steady but noticeable churn of the roster. Of the 53 players on the current roster (as of Tuesday, Sept. 14), only 13 suited up as Bengals prior to Taylor’s arrival. That means 40 current Bengals – or 75.5 percent of the roster – have joined Cincinnati since 2019.
Cincinnati’s roster overhaul has especially hit overdrive since the end of last season. Twenty-three current Bengals – that’s 43.4 percent of the 53-player roster – entered the 2021 season having never suited up in a game for Cincinnati. (It should be noted that figure includes three players who were with Cincinnati previously but never played – CB Trae Waynes, OT Isaiah Prince and TE Mitchell Wilcox.)
Bengals Weekly Release | Regular Season Week 2, 2021 vs. Chicago Bears [PDF]