Bengals comeback falls short in OT loss to Steelers

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals’ offense looked like one that was shaking off a lot of rust in the first half of its season opener against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, but the defense kept the score close enough for a second-half comeback.

Cincinnati just couldn’t capitalize on opportunities at the end of the game. Chris Boswell hit a 53-yard field goal as time expired in overtime to win it for Pittsburgh, 23-20, on Sunday at Paycor Stadium.

After Joe Burrow turned the ball over four times in the first half and added a fifth in the second half, he still managed to lead the Bengals back from an 11-point halftime deficit to send the game to overtime on a 6-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Marr Chase with no time remaining in regulation. The touchdown pass tied the score at 20, but Minkah Fitzpatrick blocked Evan McPherson’s point-after attempt.

The Cincinnati defense got a stop on the first drive of overtime, and Hayden Hurst caught a third-down pass to put the Bengals in the red zone. However, with Clark Harris suffering a right bicep injury in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati was leaning on tight end Mitchell Wilcox as its long snapper and elected to try a field goal on third down in case of a bad snap.

Although the snap was serviceable, it wasn’t great, and McPherson missed a 29-yard field goal, wide left with 3:33 remaining in overtime. Boswell then missed a 55-yard attempt, hitting the left upright, and Cincinnati had to punt on its next drive after Perine recovered a Burrow fumble on third down. The Steelers had less than a minute to win it and did it on Boswell’s third made field goal of the game.

“I had full trust in Mitch, and at the end of the day, I just couldn’t get it done,” McPherson said. “I mean, 29 yards is 29 yards. I can hit that with my left foot. So there was really no excuse for me to not make that one. It’s definitely frustrating because obviously I want to be there for my team and help us win but I wasn’t able to do it.”

Ultimately, the opener for the Bengals was impacted by the early turnovers. Cincinnati didn’t have more than four turnovers in a single game last year, even while Burrow struggled with miscues in the first half of the season. Only one player in the NFL had four turnovers in any half last season, according to ESPN Stats & Info, as Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence did it in Week 14.

The Bengals trailed 17-6 at halftime, but made it a three-point game when Tyler Boyd caught a 2-yard touchdown pass on third down early in the second half and Mike Thomas caught the two-point conversion pass.

Pittsburgh tacked on a 48-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter and had a chance to add more cushion after Burrow’s fourth interception – fifth turnover – but the defense came up with a three-and-out. The Bengals drove as far as the 1-yard line the ensuing possession, thanks to a big catch by Chase with less than three minutes left, but he was ruled out of bounds before crossing the plane of the goal. On fourth down, Cincinnati ran a similar play and the pass was broken up in the end zone.

The defense again came up with a stop to give the Bengals one last chance with 1:27 left, and this time, Burrow found Chase on the opposite side of the end zone for the tying score.

“We faced a lot of adversity today,” Chase said. “We’ve got a nice team that’s willing to fight, and I want to be surrounded around guys like that. And I think we did a good job today fighting all the mental errors, turnovers. I think we’re going to turn that around in no time and be back on track.”

Pittsburgh finished with just 267 yards of offense, as Mitch Trubisky, the Steelers’ new quarterback to begin the post-Ben Roethlisberger era, accounted for 194 yards passing with one touchdown and no interceptions.

Burrow threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns, despite his turnover troubles, and Chase had 129 yards receiving. Mixon rushed for 82 yards, including a 31-yarder.


Bengals at Cowboys, 4:25 p.m., Ch. 7, 12; 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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