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Bengals See Some Of Their Offseason Fantasies Come To Life Early In Opener

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) runs past Minnesota Vikings defensive back Bashaud Breeland (21) after making a catch and takes it in for a touchdown in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) runs past Minnesota Vikings defensive back Bashaud Breeland (21) after making a catch and takes it in for a touchdown in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

In the first half of Opening Day Bengals head coach Zac Taylor and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo broke some tendencies as the Bengals slugged to a 14-7 halftime lead over Mike Zimmer's Vikings. It came on two gritty touchdown passes from quarterback Joe Burrow in a scintillating 1:12 span that ended when rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase did "The Griddy, " in a jam-packed Paul Brown Stadium.

Some observations of the first half where so many offseason fantasies came to life with Seamless Joe sifting 11 of his first 13.

_Down 7-0 midway through the second quarter, Burrow nimbly avoided a free runner and flipped a 12-yard throw to running back Joe Mixon. Mixon, who missed the last 10 games with an injured foot, then went out for a string of plays as they examined his foot, but he returned at the end of the drive.

_On the next two third-and-longs, Burrow found Chase down the field for his first two NFL catches of 17 and 13 yards, giving him more yards in an NFL debut than A.J. Green and Chad Johnson, not to mention fellow running mates Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.

_Seeing the Vikings commit one of their 12 penalties in the half on an offsides, Burrow flung it deep to Higgins down the right sideline and was rewarded with a pass interference call on cornerback Bashaud Breeland on the 1. (Two of the penalties, like that one, were declined.)

_If you didn't think Burrow was back by now, you did when he hung in the pocket forever, took a shot when he saw Higgins screening off safety Xavier Woods and put the Bengals on the board with a two-yard touchdown pass with three minutes left in the half.

_If you didn't think Burrow back by now, you did with 35 seconds left in the half when he did what the other guy always seemed to do the last few years and stunned the Vikes with a big play in the last minute. Zimmer blitzed, Burrow eyes lit up with Chase strafing Breeland on a go route down the right side and floating it into his arms for the lead.

That gave Chase three catches for 80 yards, more than the 65 yards Cris Collnsworth had in his debut 40 years ago.

_Taylor flashed something different right away. On the first four plays, Taylor put Burrow under center on the first four snaps, which is already nearing how many times he did that last year.

On that first drive the Bengals broke another tendency when an offense that went with three receivers more than 80 percent of the time last season went double tight ends on the first few plays. It got one first down on a five-yard screen to Mixon and his five-yard run on the left edge.

_The Bengals defense was absolutely huge as Anarumo unveiled more blitzes than usual. They had fewest sacks in the league last season and broke that tendency on the game's third drive when they had two sacks and caused the Vikings to punt on the end line.

B.J. Hill, just picked up in the Billy Price trade, lined up inside right end Trey Hendrickson as one of five defensive linemen and beat his man to the outside on first down as Anarumo sent six. Then, Anarumo backed everybody off on third-and-20 and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi backed up center Garrett Bradbury into Cousins.

_The Vikings touchdown drive was a tough one for cornerback Eli Apple, starting in place of the injured Trae Waynes. On a third-and-24 in field-goal range, the Vikings ran a combo route that caused wide receiver K.J. Osborn to pop out of the slot to the outside and when Apple made the switch he couldn't finish the tackle and gave up the third down. Then his hold on wide receiver Justin Jefferson in the end zone negated a Josh Tupou sack. Then Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen got away for Cousins' touchdown pass for the 7-0 lead.

_Hendrickson was immense. He drew two holding calls.

_You ever think you see Zimmer team commit four penalties in the first three minutes of a season?

Welcome to 2021.

With the help of the massive crowd, the Vikes committed three false starts (two which earned fullback C.J. Hamm a hook) and then nose tackle D.J. Reader drew a holding penalty on guard Olisaemeka Udoh to blow up the first drive. But it didn't end there. The Vikes committed ten penalties in the half and the Bengals just one.

Check out some of the best game action photos as the Bengals opened the 2021 regular season at home against the Minnesota Vikings.

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