Eleven things you should know about the Super Bowl-bound Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati advanced to Super Bowl LVI with a 27-24 overtime victory over Kansas City in the AFC championship game.

Here are 11 things to know about the team the Rams will face for the NFL title:

1. Underdogs no more?

A Cincinnati Bengals fan holds a sign during a win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game.

In September, the Bengals weren’t even considered the team from Ohio most likely to make it this far.

The Cleveland Browns were the more obvious pick, while oddsmakers set Cincinnati’s over/under win total at 6.5. They were three-point underdogs in their opener, at home, against a Minnesota team that would eventually finish 8-9 and fire its general manager and head coach.

They’ve been underdogs 10 times since, including in the divisional round and against the Chiefs even after quarterback Joe Burrow pronounced: “We’re a really, really good team. We’re here to make noise.”

Super Bowl LVI? The Bengals opened as four-point underdogs.

2. Coach Zac Taylor and the dry-erase board story

Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor stands on the sideline during a game.

During his first season on the job in 2019, Taylor’s Bengals lost their first 11 games. They were 0-7 entering a date opposite the Rams in late October. On Tuesday of that week, Taylor said he wrote “remember when” on a dry-erase board as he and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan were huffing and puffing to devise a plan against Aaron Donald.

The idea was that, one day, they would look back and recall a time when “we couldn’t even figure out a way to get a yard against the L.A. Rams.” Taylor said the two words remain on that board in his office.

“It’s right in my vision, every second of every day,” he said. “So I look at it whether I’m trying to or not.”

3. From the Sean McVay coaching tree

Zac Taylor during his time as Rams quarterbacks coach in the 2018 season.

Before he was hired by Cincinnati, Taylor spent two seasons on Sean McVay’s staff with the Rams, one coaching wide receivers and the other quarterbacks.

He called that time “two of the best years of my life” and credited McVay for making the work fun. Taylor explained that he has attempted to cultivate a similar atmosphere with the Bengals.

“Those two years had a significant impact on me and how I go about my daily job,” he said. “Certainly, I owe a lot to Sean.”

4. From first to first

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow celebrates with fans after beating the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC title game.

Burrow is about to become the first quarterback drafted No. 1 overall to reach the Super Bowl in one of his first two seasons.

Five picks after the Bengals took Burrow in April 2020, the Chargers drafted Justin Herbert. In December, Herbert and the Chargers visited Cincinnati and won 41-22, dominating the fourth quarter. Now, Herbert is watching Burrow play for a championship.

“That’s the tough part of the NFL, there are so many good teams,” Herbert said. “If you get hot and you’re playing the right football at the right time, you can do a whole lot of things.”

5. Burrow isn’t the only Joe Cool on this team

Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson, right, kicks a 31-yard field goal.

Rookie kicker Evan McPherson is only 22 and left Florida early to enter the 2021 draft, where the Bengals grabbed him in the fifth round. He is 12 for 12 on field goals and four for four on extra points in the playoffs and has won the last two games with walk-off kicks. Including the regular season, McPherson is 12 for 14 from 50-plus yards.

6. Burrow the accidental fashion icon

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow walks on the field before the AFC championship game.

The quarterback caused a social-media frenzy with the sunglasses he wore during his news conference following the Bengals’ wild-card victory.

They were square and wire-rimmed and appeared to be rose-colored. He showed up Sunday after the win over the Chiefs wearing a gem-encrusted pendant that featured “JB9” sitting atop the Nike swoosh.

Asked if the stones were genuine, Burrow said: “They’re definitely real. I make too much money to have fake ones.”

7. Winners of a lesser bowl reunite

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd catches a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs during the regular season.

Wide receiver Tyler Boyd and Donald, the Rams’ all-world defensive tackle, were college teammates in 2013 at Pittsburgh.

“That’s one of my guys,” Boyd said, “one of my closest friends.”

Those ’13 Panthers finished 7-6 and beat Bowling Green 30-27 in the Little Caesars Bowl.

8. Can’t spell advance without a ‘D’

Patrick Mahomes, right, fumbles as he is tackled by Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard.

For all the rightful talk about Burrow, the Bengals wouldn’t have reached this game without the smothering play of their defense against Kansas City.

The Chiefs failed to score on six consecutive possessions during one stretch. In two victories over Kansas City this season, Cincinnati gave up only two field goals after halftime. That performance points directly to defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo.

“He’s a scientist,” safety Vonn Bell said. “He always has some formula in his head.”

9. Stealing possessions

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt reacts after making a tackle.

Speaking of stopping the other team, each of the Bengals’ three postseason victories has featured an interception on the defense’s final play. Linebacker Germaine Pratt picked off Derek Carr, linebacker Logan Wilson got Ryan Tannehill and Bell intercepted Mahomes.

10. Chasing down history

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase catches an 18-yard touchdown pass.

The Rams have Cooper Kupp. The Bengals have Ja’Marr Chase. Just a rookie, Chase and teammate Tee Higgins became the first duo in NFL history to have 1,000-yard receiving seasons before the age of 23. A former teammate of Burrow at Louisiana State, Chase finished the regular season with a team-record 1,455 receiving yards, which also is the most by an NFL rookie during the Super Bowl era.

11. History lesson II

Cincinnati Bengals safety Vonn Bell, left, is congratulated by cornerback Eli Apple.

Before this run, the Bengals hadn’t won a playoff game in 31 years. The franchise had never won a postseason game on the road until the divisional-round victory at Tennessee. Even with a young star at quarterback, Bell, a veteran of six NFL seasons, said he knows better than to expect Super Bowl appearances to suddenly become an annual tradition.

“We always try to win now because everybody’s shelf life is small,” he said. “We can never look forward. We can only stay in the now.”

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