It’s been quite an ascent for the Bengals QB, and now he’s on the doorstep of history heading into Super Bowl LVI.
Joe Burrow went to Athens High School in The Plains, Ohio, roughly a two-and-a-half hour drive from the Cincinnati Bengals’ home of Paul Brown Stadium.
After playing briefly for Ohio State and transferring to LSU where he won a national championship on Jan. 13, 2020, Burrow and the Bengals shocked Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 30, 2022 to bring Cincy to its first Super Bowl in 33 years.
The Bengals finished 2-14 in 2019, earning the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and taking the ascendant Burrow, who was far from the best college prospect when his title run in Baton Rouge began. Burrow then tore his ACL in Week 11 of his rookie season, with Cincinnati finishing 4-11-1. After six wins in two years, it came as no surprise that FanDuel put Burrow’s Bengals at +12000 to win their first ever Super Bowl, tied for the league’s third-longest odds.
At +500, Mahomes and the Chiefs had the NFL’s best odds, favored to make their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance. The Bengals? They were coming off five straight losing seasons and hadn’t won a playoff game since 1990.
After taking Burrow’s LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase in the first round of the 2021 draft and developing a strong defense to go with the NFL’s top young quarterback-wide receiver tandem, Cincy went 10-7 and won its first division title since 2015. The division-clinching win? A 34-31 home victory over the Chiefs on Jan. 2, after they climbed back from a 14-point deficit to win it with a field goal as time expired.
The Bengals barely squeaked past the Las Vegas Raiders in the Wild Card round before upsetting the top-seeded Tennessee Titans to advance to Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium. And just like their first meeting, Kansas City was up big early, with Mahomes throwing touchdown passes on his first three possessions to go up 21-3 in the second quarter.
Social media had declared the Chiefs winners. In Mahomes’ 11th career playoff game, it was his seventh three-TD performance, already one behind Aaron Rodgers despite being just 26 years old. It was his 11th passing TD of the playoffs, tied for the most all-time, and his 24th career playoff TD pass at home, tied with Joe Montana for third all time.
With Kansas City up 21-10 and driving at the end of the half, Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid decided to go for the TD instead of a sure three points, and a screen pass to Tyreek Hill fell short of the goal line, keeping the Bengals’ deficit at 11. The Chiefs did not score another TD.
As the second half began, Mahomes was 39-3 in his career when leading by at least 14 points in a game. One of those losses was to Burrow’s Bengals in Week 17. Cincinnati’s defense put the clamps on Kansas City in the second half, forcing an interception and limiting the Chiefs to a game-tying field goal as time expired in regulation.
No team had ever won back-to-back postseason overtime games, but after Mahomes and the Chiefs won the toss last week in its instant classic victory over Buffalo, you liked their chances when they won the flip again.
Up to that point, teams that won the coin toss to begin NFL playoff overtime games were 10-1. But Mahomes’ 3rd and 10 pass was intercepted by the Bengals’ Vonn Bell, setting Burrow up at his own 45 with only a field goal needed to bring the Bengals to the Super Bowl. Eight plays and 42 yards later, McPherson’s 31-yard field goal sent Cincinnati to Los Angeles for Super Bowl LVI to face the LA Rams.
Burrow became the first No. 1 overall pick to ever take his team to the Super Bowl in just his second season, and he became the second quarterback since 1950 to orchestrate a game-winning drive in each of his first two road playoff games, joining Colin Kaepernick, who did it in 2013 and 2014. Burrow now joins Tom Brady as the only QBs to ever defeat Mahomes in the playoffs, with this win allowing Cincinnati to lift the Lamar Hunt Trophy, named after the legendary Chiefs owner, as AFC champions in Kansas City.
At just 25 years old, Burrow can now rightfully claim to be among not just the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, but among the best QBs period. In less than two years, he’s taken the Bengals from doormat to the doorstep of their first ever Super Bowl title. And at his young age, he has a chance to join Joes Namath and Montana as the only three QBs to lead teams as the starter to both a national championship and a Super Bowl.
Though the Bengals may ultimately fall short of winning it all this year, there’s no doubt that Joe Burrow is a miracle worker.