Bengals 2020 Season In Review
The Bengals were 4-11-1 in 2020, after fighting through injuries that saw 10 regular contributors end the season on Reserve/Injured. The most notable of those injuries was rookie QB Joe Burrow, the team's No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 draft who saw his season end after 10 games due to a knee injury. Despite the lack of an NFL offseason program to ease the rookie learning curve, Taylor helped steer Burrow to one of the top statistical starts to a career by a QB in NFL history. Burrow missed nearly half of his 10th game, but his 264 completions still count as the most ever by an NFL QB through their first 10 career games, while his 404 pass attempts are second in the same category and his 2688 passing yards are fifth.
On defense, more than half of Cincinnati's usual starters in 2020 were not with the team in '19. That adjustment was compounded by the lack of an offseason program and a wave of injuries to key players, however Taylor's Bengals found their footing the second half of the season and held four of their final seven opponents to 20 or fewer points.
COVID-19 makes for unprecedented year
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down in 2020, and with it came a complete overhaul of operations in the NFL.
Sports leagues on every level struggled with cancellations due to COVID-19, however the NFL's guidelines proved effective as all 269 scheduled games (regular season and playoffs) were played. Numerous games were postponed to Mondays, Tuesdays or even Wednesdays, and multiple teams lost their bye or were forced to re-arrange their schedule. The Bengals, however, were fortunate, as all 16 of their regular-season games were played at their originally scheduled date and time.
At the top of the list: Here's a look at where the Bengals ranked — both individually and in team categories — among the top 10 in the NFL in 2020.
- Fourth in fourth-down percentage (70.4; 19 of 27).
- Sixth in lowest opponent completion percentage (62.8).
JESSIE BATES III
- Tied for sixth in passes defensed (15).
- Tied for third in defensive fumble recoveries (two).
BENGALS SPECIAL TEAMS
- Sixth in average drive start on offense (26.4-yard line).
- Sixth in average yards allowed per punt return (5.9).
- Tied for longest punt (72).
- Seventh in net punting average (42.8).
- Seventh in gross punting average (47.2).
- Tied for second in kickoff returns of at least 40 yards (five).
- Sixth in average yards per kickoff return (26.2).
- Fifth in average yards per punt return (10.1).
Bengals complete QB trifecta
Three different quarterbacks started and won games for the Bengals in 2020 — Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen and Ryan Finley. It marks just the second season in Bengals history that as many QBs have gotten into the win column, joining the 1984 campaign when Ken Anderson, Boomer Esiason and Turk Schonert all did it.
Cincinnati was one of three teams in 2020 to have won games with at least three different starting quarterbacks, joining Washington and San Francisco.
Bengals rookie QBs as starters: Joe Burrow in 2020 became just the 14th rookie QB to start a game for the Bengals, and the third to start more than four games. The others to start more than four games were Greg Cook in 1969 (4-6-1 record) and Andy Dalton in 2011 (9-7 record). Burrow compiled a 2-7-1 record as starter in 2020, before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Game 10, Nov. 22 at Washington.
Other Bengal QBs of note to start as rookies include Ken Anderson in 1971 (0-4) and Boomer Esiason in '84 (3-1). Burrow's fellow No. 1 overall pick, Carson Palmer, did not take over the starting role until his second season.
Burrow's rookie season shortened by injury
Bengals QB Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending left knee injury early in the third quarter of Game 10, Nov. 22 at Washington, bringing to an end what was already being considered one of the top statistical seasons by any rookie in Bengals history. The 24-year-old Burrow underwent surgery to repair his knee on Dec. 2, and is expected to return to action in 2021.
Burrow ended his rookie campaign with 404 pass attempts, 264 completions, a 65.3 completion percentage, 13 TDs, five INTs and a passer rating of 89.8. He had five 300-yard passing games, and at the time of his injury — early in the third quarter of Game 10 — he needed just 97 more yards to make that total six, which would have tied former Colts QB Andrew Luck for the most ever by an NFL rookie (Chargers QB Justin Herbert surpassed Luck's mark later in 2020). Burrow had been on pace to shatter several other NFL rookie passing records, including the marks for attempts, completions and passing yards, as well as multiple Bengals single-season passing records.
Upon his expected return in 2021, the Athens, Ohio native will look to continue what has been one of the most productive starts to a career by a QB in league history. Despite missing nearly half of his 10th game, Burrow's 264 completions still count as the most ever by an NFL QB through their first 10 career games. His 404 pass attempts are the second-most ever in that same category, and his 2688 passing yards are fifth.
In Game 7 vs. Cleveland, Burrow posted one of the top single-game statistical performances by a rookie in NFL history, when he passed for 406 yards. It was just the sixth-ever 400-yard passing game by an NFL rookie, and 11th such game in Bengals history. Burrow's performance vs. Cleveland made him the first QB — of any experience — in league history to record 400 passing yards, three passing TDs and one rushing TD in a game. He also spread the ball around effectively against the Browns, as the game was the first in team history in which six different players had at least 50 receiving yards.
Go inside the action with some of the best images from the Bengals 2020 season.
25 points does the trick
Since 2011, the Bengals own a 51-5-2 record when scoring 25 or more points. That's good for the third-best winning percentage (.897) in the NFL when topping the 25-point mark over that span.
The Bengals are 5-4 under head coach Zac Taylor (4-3 last season) when reaching the 25-point plateau.
Higgins ties Collinsworth for rookie record
WR Tee Higgins finished his rookie season with 67 catches, tied with former WR Cris Collinsworth for most receptions ever by a Bengals rookie. Higgins entered Cincinnati's Jan. 3 season finale vs. Baltimore tied with Collinsworth and poised to capture sole possession of the record with just one catch. And he appeared to get it in style in the first quarter, when he hauled in a pass from QB Brandon Allen and darted for a 41-yard gain. But the play was negated by penalty, and at the end of the run Higgins aggravated a prior hamstring injury that caused him to miss the rest of the game.
Higgins, thus, was held without a catch in the finale. Still, his rookie season ended with 67 catches, despite several obstacles along the way. He did not have an offseason program or preseason games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a hamstring injury caused him to miss two weeks early in training camp. He was eased into the WR rotation the first two regular-season games, and then his starting QB — fellow rookie Joe Burrow — was lost for the final six games due to injury. Higgins caught passes from three different QBs as a rookie.
Still, Higgins 67 catches moved him ahead of some impressive names on Cincinnati's rookie receptions list— WR A.J. Green (65), HB Giovani Bernard (56), WR Tyler Boyd (54) and WR Eddie Brown (53).
Bengals' 19 fourth downs second in NFL history
The Bengals' offense in 2020 successfully converted 19 of its 27 fourth-down attempts, good for a 70.4 percentage that ranked fourth in the NFL.
But while their percentage wasn't historically significant, their league-best 19 fourth-down conversions were. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, whose records on fourth-down conversions go back to 1977, 19 fourth-down conversions is tied for the second-most in a single season in NFL history. That mark also easily outpaces the previous Bengals record of 14, set in 1992 (Bengals records go back to '82).
The Bengals fell just one fourth-down conversion shy of tying the NFL record of 20, set by the 1996 Chicago Bears, but for a moment in time it appeared they had tied the record. In Game 15 at Houston, Cincinnati was driving to break a 24-24 tie when QB Brandon Allen gained the necessary one yard on a fourth-down QB sneak. But Cincinnati was flagged for an illegal formation on the play, which negated the conversion. The Bengals instead settled for a FG and went on to win the game.
Boyd falls short of third thousand: Bengals WR Tyler Boyd ended his 2020 season with 841 receiving yards, just 159 shy of reaching the 1000-yard mark for what would have been the third consecutive season. Boyd had been aiming to become just the fourth Bengal ever to reach 1000 receiving yards in at least three consecutive seasons. He was on pace to do just that before he left Game 14 vs. Pittsburgh in the first quarter with a concussion, and then missed the following week at Houston.
Still, Boyd stands as one of nine Bengals ever to reach 1000 receiving yards in a season, and one of six to hit the mark more than once. WR Chad Johnson's seven 1000-yard seasons stand as the most in team history, followed by WRs A.J. Green (six), Carl Pickens (four), Cris Collinsworth (four) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (two). WRs Eddie Brown, Tim McGee and Darnay Scott each had one 1000-yard season.
Bates posts his best season
Bengals S Jessie Bates was among the top performers — offense or defense — on the team in 2020, drawing praise from many observers as one of the top safeties in the NFL.
Bates, a 2018 second-round pick of the Bengals, started all 16 games and recorded 107 tackles (second on team), including two for losses, along with 15 PDs (tied for sixth in NFL), three INTs and a FF. He also made two tackles on special teams, including one big one — a touchdown-saving stop on a kick return on Dec. 13 vs. Dallas, as Cowboys RB Tony Pollard began to break into the clear.
And opposing coaches took notice when watching the film. "I don't know how many interceptions Jessie Bates has, but this is a good player. I'll tell you that right now," said Dolphins head coach Brian Flores. "I don't really care how many interceptions he has. This is a damn good player."
Added Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin: "I just can't say enough about the play of (the Bengals') safety tandem, specifically Jessie Bates. He's a good player. They are asking him to do more, and he's delivering more."
Said Bates of all the praise: "That only means so much. I play this game to win football games. I'm a leader of this team on the defensive side, and my main goal is to win football games. I look at national media when I need to, but right now I'm just focusing on building the right environment around here."
Bates has started all 48 games of his career, and has topped 100 tackles in each of his first three seasons.
Wilson goes long
On Cincinnati's opening possession of Game 11 vs. the N.Y. Giants, S Brandon Wilson fielded the kickoff in the end zone and darted 103 yards for a TD. It counted officially as the longest play of any kind in Bengals history, topping a 102-yard kickoff return by RB Eric Bieniemy (Oct. 26, 1997 at NYG) and a pair of 102-yard INT returns by CBs Artrell Hawkins (Nov. 3, 2002 at Houston) and Louis Breeden (Nov. 8, 1981 at S.D.). It was also the longest play in the AFC in 2020.
According to the NFL's Next Gen Stats service, which uses GPS to track players' speed, Wilson reached a top speed of 21.05 MPH during the return. It didn't, however, match the 22.03 MPH he recorded on a kickoff return for a TD in 2019, which still stands as fastest by a Bengal since NGS' launch in '16.
Wilson now has two career kickoff returns for TDs, tied with former S/CB Tremaine Mack for the most in team history.
The Huber roundup
Bengals P Kevin Huber, a 2009 Bengals fifth-round pick who in 2020 played his 12th season in stripes, has long been considered the top punter in team history. He has cemented that legacy over the last two seasons by taking over the top spot in the few remaining career punting categories he did not already own.
Huber now stands first in team history in the following categories:
- Punts (914)
- Punting yards (41,362)
- Gross average (45.25)
- Net average (40.22)
- Inside-20 punts (315)
Huber has also taken over many of the Bengals' single-season and single-game records. Among them are:
- He holds the top five Bengals season averages in both gross and net punting yardage, and in 2020, his 12th NFL season, he re-set his own single-season team records in both categories (47.18 gross, 42.82 net).
- He shares the team record for longest punt (75 yards) with Kyle Larson.
- His 33 inside-20 punts in 2012 is a single-season franchise record.
- His six inside-20 punts on Sept. 14, 2017 vs. Houston are tied with Lee Johnson (Nov. 2, 1997) for the most in a game in Bengals history.
The NFL's Next Gen Stats service, which tracks players' speed by using GPS, clocked HB Joe Mixon at 21.19 MPH on his 34-yard TD run in Game 4 vs. Jacksonville. It was the fastest by a Bengal in 2020. S Brandon Wilson's kickoff return for a TD at Baltimore in 2019 (22.03 MPH) was the fastest by a Bengal since NGS' launch in '16 ... This season's Oct. 25 matchup between the Bengals and Browns was the first in NFL history with five combined go-ahead TD passes in the fourth quarter ... The Bengals converted all five of their fourth-down attempts on Sept. 17 at Cleveland, marking the first time since 1970 that Cincinnati has gone perfect on as many fourth-down attempts in a single game (Elias Sports Bureau's records do not go back further than 1970) ... The longest-tenured player on the roster in 2020 was P Kevin Huber, a 12th-year pro who joined the Bengals as a fifth-round pick in 2009 ... The oldest Bengal on the roster was LS Clark Harris, who was 36 (born July 10, 1984) ... The youngest Bengal was WR Tee Higgins, who was 21 (born Jan. 18, 1999) ... The lightest Bengal on the roster was WR Mike Thomas, who was listed at 189 pounds ... The heaviest Bengal was G Quinton Spain, who was listed at 330 pounds ... The tallest Bengal was DT Margus Hunt, who is 6-8 ... The shortest Bengal was Trayveon Williams, who is 5-8.