Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.
Television: The game will air on FOX-TV. In the Bengals’ home region, it will be carried by WXIX-TV (Ch. 19) in Cincinnati, WGRT-TV (Ch. 45) in Dayton, WDKY-TV (Ch. 56) in Lexington, and WTTE-TV (Ch. 28) in Columbus. Broadcasters are Chris Myers (play-by-play), Daryl Johnston (analyst) and Jennifer Hale (reporter).
Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).
Setting the scene: The Bengals open their 2021 regular season this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings at Paul Brown Stadium.
“It’s an exciting time right now,” said Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. “We feel good about the guys we have on this team and where we are as we head into the regular season. The Vikings provide a significant challenge for us right off the bat, but it’ll be great being back out there and taking that on in front of a packed Paul Brown Stadium.”
It’s been an eventful offseason for Cincinnati, highlighted by new additions to the roster and the return of numerous healthy starters. When the Bengals take the field on Sunday, only seven of the 22 players who started last season’s finale are expected to line up again as starters. Nearly half (22 of 46) of the players who saw action in that finale, including eight starters, are not on Cincinnati’s current 53-player roster.
Last year was perhaps most infamous, though, for the number of key Bengals whose seasons ended early due to injury. Of the 15 listed starters on this year’s depth chart (see page 17 of this release) who were with Cincinnati last season, six saw their 2020 seasons end early due to injuries — QB Joe Burrow, LOT Jonah Williams, HB Joe Mixon, TE C.J. Uzomah NT D.J. Reader and LB Logan Wilson. Two more — WR Tee Higgins and C Trey Hopkins — left the finale with injuries.
The most anticipated return, though, is that of Burrow, Cincinnati’s second-year QB who missed the final six games of his rookie campaign due to a left knee injury. After a lengthy rehab process, Burrow was medically cleared in time to take the first snap of training camp on July 28 and has participated fully in every practice since (save for one scheduled rest day). The 24-year old native of Athens, Ohio vowed shortly after the injury that he would start the 2021 opener, and it is expected that he will fulfill that promise when the offense takes the field on Sunday.
“I’m feeling great right now physically,” Burrow said after the preseason finale, during which he played three snaps. It was his only game action of the preseason. “We’re ready to go. I’m excited about this next week, and I’m excited to get a game plan and get ready.
“I’m happy that preseason is over and we can focus on the first game. We’re tired of going against each other — hitting each other and getting into fights in practice each day. It’s going to be nice to get out there and hit someone else when it counts.”
One of the other hotly anticipated storylines this Sunday revolves around the return of Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, who was a popular and successful defensive coordinator for the Bengals from 2008-13. The Bengals boasted top-10 defenses in four of Zimmer’s six seasons in Cincinnati (’09 and ’11-13), with his defenses helping power the team to the playoffs in each of those years. Sunday will be Zimmer’s first regular-season game back in Cincinnati since he took the Vikings job in 2014.
“Mike Zimmer is one of the best coaches in this league,” Taylor told the media this week. “He was a tremendous defensive coordinator for a long time. I remember we always had trouble with the Bengals when I was on the staff in Miami. And then when I was with the Rams, we played in Minnesota in 2017 and they beat us down pretty good.”
Taylor, whose background is on offense, will lead Burrow and the Bengals against a formidable Vikings defense on Sunday. “They’re going to be well-coached,” Taylor said. “They’re probably one of the smartest defenses you’ll play against. Their front is where you have to start with them, but then you have the intelligence and the talent at that second level with Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr, who are as good a linebacker tandem as any over the last decade or two in pro football. And then you have Harrison Smith and Patrick Peterson in the back end — those are two of the smartest DBs you’re ever going to face.”
The game also features a number of other connections beyond Zimmer. Vikings senior defensive assistant Paul Guenther served as Bengals defensive coordinator from 2014-17, after Zimmer left for Minnesota. Vikings co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer (Mike Zimmer’s son) was on Cincinnati’s staff in 2013. Two Bengals starters — ROT Riley Reiff and CB Trae Waynes — previously played for the Vikings, while Vikings LB Nick Vigil and CB Mackensie Alexander are former Bengals.
Sunday will also mark a reunion of sorts between three high-profile college teammates — Bengals QB Joe Burrow, Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase and Vikings WR Justin Jefferson. Together at Louisiana State in 2019, Burrow, Chase and Jefferson formed one of the top passing attacks in college football history and helped lead LSU to an undefeated season and national championship.
“We made each other a lot of money (laughs),” Burrow said of the reunion. “I think I made a little more though, based on my draft slot (laughs). “Justin is a great guy and a great player. He was my go-to guy for my first year at LSU, and then Ja’Marr emerged and I could take my pick. Justin is a lot like Ja’Marr — they both are really smart players, and you don’t have to tell him something more than once. People ask me if I was surprised by the year he had last year. No, I wasn’t surprised at all. He’s a great player that works really hard.
I knew exactly what was going to happen.”
The series: Minnesota leads by just one game, 7-6, but the series has been dominated by the home team. The Bengals lead 6-1 in Cincinnati, but have not won in six visits to Minnesota. The Vikings won the most recent meeting in Minnesota in 2017, 34-7. Here are two memorable previous Bengals-Vikings meetings:
● Minnesota’s 29-21 home victory in 1989 was the regular-season finale for both teams, a nationally televised Christmas night contest in which the Vikings clinched the NFC Central title at 10-6, while the defending AFC Champion Bengals were eliminated from the playoffs at 8-8. Former University of Cincinnati kicker Rich Karlis booted five field goals for the Vikings.
● Cincinnati’s 27-24 home victory on Christmas Eve in 1995 featured a Bengals rally from a 21-point deficit, tying the biggest comeback in franchise history. The Bengals trailed 24-3 at halftime, but finished a 24-0 second-half surge on Doug Pelfrey’s 51-yard field goal as time expired.
Team bests from the series:
Bengals — MOST POINTS: 42, in a 42-14 Bengals win in the last meeting, in 2013 at Paul Brown Stadium. LARGEST VICTORY MARGIN: 29, in a 37-8 victory in 2005 at PBS. FEWEST POINTS ALLOWED: 0 (twice), most recently in a 14-0 win at Cincinnati in 1980.
Vikings — MOST POINTS: 42 (twice), most recently in a 42-7 victory at Cincinnati in 1992. LARGEST VICTORY MARGIN: 35, in the 42-7 win in ’92.
FEWEST POINTS ALLOWED: 3, in a 24-3 win at Minnesota in 1998. Bengals against ex-coaches: This week’s game will mark the 30th time the Bengals have faced a team whose head coach is a former Bengals assistant coach or head coach. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was Bengals defensive coordinator from 2008-13.
The Bengals own a 16-12-1 record in the 29 previous meetings against their former assistants, including an 8-2-1 in their last 11 meetings. This week’s game will be head coach Zac Taylor’s first contest against a former Bengals coach. Though it is not the case this week, there have been 11 instances in which a former Bengals assistant faces Cincinnati as a head coach against the Bengals head coach under whom he served. The Bengals are 7-3-1 in those 11 meetings.
Below is the listing of the 29 previous games:
DATE OPP. HEAD COACH WITH CIN. RESULT
12-8-74 DET. ………….. Rick Forzano 1968 (AC) Lions, 23-19
12-6-81 S.F. ………………… Bill Walsh 1968-75 (AC) 49ers, 21-3
1-24-82 vs. S.F.* ………….. Bill Walsh 1968-75 (AC) 49ers, 26-21
10-26-82 SEA. ……. Mike McCormack 1976-79 (AC) Bengals, 24-10
11-6-83 @Hou. ……… Chuck Studley 1969-78 (AC) Bengals, 55-14
11-20-83 HOU. ……….. Chuck Studley 1969-78 (AC) Bengals, 38-10
11-4-84 @S.F. …………….. Bill Walsh 1968-75 (AC) 49ers, 23-17
11-3-85 @Buff. …….. Hank Bullough 1980-83 (AC) Bengals, 23-17
9-14-86 BUFF. ……… Hank Bullough 1980-83 (AC) Bengals, 36-33 (OT)
10-5-86 @G.B.** …… Forrest Gregg 1980-83 (HC) Bengals, 34-28
9-20-87 S.F. ………………… Bill Walsh 1968-75 (AC) 49ers, 27-26
12-6-87 K.C. …………… Frank Gansz 1979-80 (AC) Bengals, 30-27 (OT)
11-13-88 @K.C…………. Frank Gansz 1979-80 (AC) Chiefs, 31-28
1-22-89 S.F.*** ……………. Bill Walsh 1968-75 (AC) 49ers, 20-16
9-9-90 NYJ …………… Bruce Coslet 1981-89 (AC) Bengals, 25-20
11-15-92 @NYJ ………… Bruce Coslet 1981-89 (AC) Jets, 17-14
11-21-93 @NYJ ………… Bruce Coslet 1981-89 (AC) Jets, 17-12
10-8-95 @T.B. …………. Sam Wyche 1984-91 (HC) Bucs, 19-16
12-22-96 IND. …………… Lindy Infante 1980-82 (AC) Bengals, 31-24
11-9-97 @Ind………….. Lindy Infante 1980-82 (AC) Bengals, 28-13
12-22-13 MINN. ……….. Leslie Frazier 2003-04 (AC) Bengals, 42-14
10-23-16 CLE. ………….. Hue Jackson ’04-06; ’12-15 (AC) Bengals, 31-17
10-30-16 WASH. ………… Jay Gruden 2011-13 (AC) Tie, 27-27 (OT)
12-11-16 @Cle. ………… Hue Jackson 04-06; ’12-15 (AC) Bengals, 23-10
10-1-17 CLE. ………….. Hue Jackson 04-06; ’12-15 (AC) Bengals, 31-7
11-19-17 @Den. ……… Vance Joseph 2014-15 (AC) Bengals, 20-17
11-26-17 CLE. ………….. Hue Jackson 04-06; ’12-15 (AC) Bengals, 30-16
12-17-17 @Minn. ………. Mike Zimmer ’08-13 (AC) Vikings, 34-7
12-2-18 DEN. ………… Vance Joseph ’14-15 (AC) Broncos, 24-10
AC—Assistant coach. HC—Head coach. *—Super Bowl XVI at Pontiac, Mich.
**—At Milwaukee. ***—Super Bowl XXIII at Miami.
● Mike McCormack was head coach of the Eagles from 1973-75 and was 1-0 against the Bengals, but he had yet to coach in Cincinnati at that time. He coached for the Bengals from 1976-79.
● Richard Williamson was head coach at Tampa Bay (1990-91), but did not play the Bengals. He later served as an assistant coach in Cincinnati (’92-94).
● Gary Moeller, a Bengals assistant in 1995-96, was head coach at Detroit for eight games in 2000 but did not oppose the Bengals.
● Lindy Infante was head coach at Green Bay from 1989-91 but did not oppose the Bengals, facing them as a head coach only with the Colts in 1996 and ’97.
● Chuck Studley, who coached the Houston Oilers against the Bengals after being a Bengals assistant (games in chart in previous item), returned to the Bengals as an assistant from 1989-91.
● Bruce Coslet, who faced the Bengals three times as Jets head coach after his 1981-89 tenure as a Cincinnati assistant, later returned to the Bengals, as an assistant from ’94-96 and head coach from ’96-2000.
● Coslet and Dick Jauron are the only former Bengals players to later oppose Cincinnati as head coaches. Coslet was a Bengals TE from 1969-76, and as head coach of the Jets from ’90-93, he was 2-1 against the Bengals. He made his head coaching debut against the Bengals in 1990, losing 25-20 at Riverfront Stadium. Jauron was a Bengals safety from 1978-81. Jauron was 2-1 against the Bengals as a head coach, winning with Chicago in 2001, losing with Detroit in ’05 and winning with Buffalo in ’07.
● Hue Jackson became Oakland Raiders head coach in 2011, following his first stint with the Bengals, but his ’11 Raiders did not play the Bengals. Records vs. Vikings: The longest pass completion in Bengals history was a 94-yarder for a TD from Ken Anderson to WR Billy Brooks on Nov. 13, 1977 at Minnesota.
The Bengals record for most penalties incurred in a game is 17, against the Vikings on Sept. 18, 2005 at Paul Brown Stadium.
Also on Sept. 18, 2005, the Bengals snagged five INTs against Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper, one of four times they have set that record against an opposing passer. Bengals CB Deltha O’Neal recorded three of those INTs, which tied a team record for most INTs by a single person in a game.
The Bengals tied the biggest comeback in franchise history on Christmas Eve of 1995, when they rallied from 21 down (24-3) for a 27-24 win over the Vikings at Riverfront Stadium. The first and only other time the Bengals came back from a 21-point deficit was in a 27-21 win vs. Seattle on Sept. 6, 1981.
On Sept. 27, 1992, Vikings CB Todd Scott recorded three INTs, which is tied for the most INTs in a game by an opposing player.
Individually vs. Vikings: Bengals TE C.J. Uzomah is the only current Bengal with career offensive statistics against Minnesota. He caught four passes for 24 yards in the 2017 contest.