Members of the 2021 Cincinnati Bengals might not buy another meal within The Queen City for life.
Their Super Wild Card victory over the Las Vegas Raiders was more than just a playoff win.
Instead, their triumph erased the franchise’s postseason frustration that lingered for over three decades.
"I just think they're pretty cool."
Joe Burrow found glasses he likes and he's not looking back 😂🤓
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 16, 2022
It is poetic justice that the Raiders, the team that defeated the Bengals in the 1991 Divisional Round, is the same squad they eliminated to advance in the 2021 NFL playoffs.
During Cincinnati’s historic accomplishment, there were several heroes but none more significant than Joe Burrow.
It would be impossible for the franchise to sniff playoff glory without him.
Joe Cool 2.0
Ironically, the first Joe Cool defeated the Bengals in two Super Bowls during the 1980s.
Joe Montana retired in 1994 after winning four Super Bowls, two NFL MVPs, and five All-Pro selections.
Like movies that get a rerun, a new Joe Cool emerged during the 2019 college football season when Burrow led the LSU Tigers to an undefeated season.
He capped off his 60-touchdown season with a National Championship win over the Clemson Tigers.
For all you Skyline Chili devotees, a @JoeyB note:
Burrow's passer rating in his last 5 games: 129.9
Highest passer rating ever by Joe Montana in a 5-game stretch: 128.1
This Burrow guy.
— Peter King (@peter_king) January 17, 2022
Burrow finished the game with 31 completions for 463 yards and five touchdowns despite the bright lights and the big crowd at the Superdome.
That performance made it a no-brainer for the Bengals to select him with the first overall pick in 2020.
However, his presence did not automatically translate to victories.
Worst, an ACL and MCL tear ended his rookie season abruptly.
Joe Burrow has played 6 “have to have it games” in his career.
Georgia (SEC title)
Ravens (Week 16)
Chiefs (Week 17)
In those games:
2,669 Pass Yds (444/game)
0 Int @PaulHembo 👊🏻
— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) January 12, 2022
But what a difference one year made, and Burrow led the league in completion percentage (70.4) and average yards per completion (8.9).
His 34 touchdown passes also helped the Bengals return to the playoffs after a five-year drought.
Unfazed with pressure, the sophomore quarterback led his team to victory, completing 70 percent of his throws for 244 yards and two touchdowns.
He kept executing plays even if Maxx Crosby continued to overpower his offensive line.
"Teams that tried like crazy to beat Joe, now are so proud that he's from our area"
We went back to Joe Burrow's hometown to get a look at where he started before his playoff debut ❤️ pic.twitter.com/vFKhpS4fiw
— NFL GameDay (@NFLGameDay) January 15, 2022
The Raiders defensive line got their licks on him, but Burrow did not bother.
Burrow stayed composed even if Las Vegas was mounting a comeback.
It helps to have a calm leader during tense moments of a playoff game.
That’s an intangible asset from Burrow that will help the Bengals remain competitive for the next decade.
With him at the helm, Cincinnati might finally have the winner they’ve been looking for since the franchise’s creation in 1968.
The Bengals Keep On Roaring
Burrow surpassed his first great challenge after leading the Bengals to a playoff victory at home.
However, he can grow his legend further if they win on the road against the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round.
The Titans are the best team in the AFC despite injuries to their key players all season long.
But they get an upgrade because Derrick Henry will return after suffering a foot injury.
Man I freaking love Joe Burrow pic.twitter.com/oZ6vPhYrRR
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) January 16, 2022
Henry, at full strength, will be a handful for the Bengals defense, especially if Trey Hendrickson won’t play.
Still, the Bengals shouldn’t worry because they have a quarterback who’s always on an even keel.
History is also on Cincinnati’s side because the Houston Oilers (now Titans) were the team they defeated during the 1990 Wild Card.
If one playoff victory made him the redeemer of a long-suffering city, winning over the Titans will make him a saint among the Bengals faithful.