CINCINNATI (AP) – Joe Burrow came to the line on fourth-and-inches on the Bengals 48 and planned to sneak the ball over for a first down late in overtime.
Seeing the middle stacked, Burrow checked to the second planned play, a pass to tight end C.J. Uzomah that had worked perfectly in practice last week.
That call worked. Burrow rolled out and hit Uzomah in stride for a 32-yard gain to set up Evan McPherson for a 33-yard field goal that gave the Bengals a 27-24 overtime win over the Minnesota Vikings in the opener Sunday.
“It was a beautiful ball, and he was dropping dimes all day, so I was just another one,” Uzomah said.
“They had that check-in there last year,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer noted. “Exact same play. We talked about it. It was a quarterback sneak, and they checked it and made a nice throw to the tight end.”
Cincinnati’s Germaine Pratt recovered Dalvin Cook’s fumble to set up the winning drive. Minnesota challenged the ruling that Cook had fumbled, but it was upheld after a replay review.
“I know I had it,” Pratt said. “There was no doubt in my mind.”
Greg Joseph kicked a career-long 53-yard field goal as time ran out in the fourth quarter to tie the game for Minnesota, which had battled back from a 21-7 second-half deficit.
Burrow threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns in his return after major knee surgery, and rookie Ja’Marr Chase had 101 yards on five receptions, including a 50-yard scoring pass from his former LSU teammate.
“That first game is important,” Burrow said. “You need momentum early in the season.”
Burrow, who flashed his considerable potential last season before tearing up his left knee in Week 11, completed 20 passes on 27 attempts and didn’t show any residual effects from being sacked five times by the Vikings. The 24-year-old played only one series in the preseason, in the final game, as he continued to rehab.
“When the game’s on the line, I like the ball in my hands,” Burrow said.
Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon, making a return from a foot injury that sidelined him much of last season, rushed for 127 yards and had a 2-yard touchdown plunge in the third quarter.
Kirk Cousins passed for 351 yards and two touchdowns to Adam Thielen for the Vikings.
“Way too many mistakes,” Zimmer said. “Very disappointing. Then we get a chance to come back and rally, then we fumble the ball and give up a fourth-and-inches throw. They played better than us today.”
McPherson, a rookie out of Florida who hit the game-winner, kicked his first NFL field goal earlier in the fourth quarter, a 53-yarder that was so high and long that it drew oohs and ahhs from the crowd of 56,525.
“It’s a good feeling to watch those balls go through the uprights and know I did it before and can do it again,” McPherson said. He also converted all three of his PAT attempts.
NO MORE DROPS
Chase, taken as the fifth overall pick by the Bengals in the draft, had been plagued with dropped passes throughout the preseason and took the social media criticism that came with it. He didn’t drop any Sunday. He grabbed five of his seven targets for 101 yards in his NFL debut.
“I had a couple guys come up to me and say, ‘You know, I hope Ja’Marr comes to play today.’ “ Burrow said. ”I said don’t worry – it’s Sunday, it’s game day, he’s going to come ready to play.”
The Vikings were penalized 12 times for 116 yards, including for three false starts on the first drive of the game. They had four penalties on their first eight plays. The only turnover of the game was Cook’s fumble in overtime.
Vikings: At Arizona on Sunday.
Bengals: At Chicago on Sunday.