From 0-2 to the Super Bowl? Bengals, Titans are looking to join these teams that have made big plays after rough starts

Joe Burrow and the rest of the reigning AFC champions naturally expected better. Fresh off the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance in more than 30 years, the Bengals’ conference title defense is off to a roaring start. Cincinnati is 0-2 after losing two three-point games to Pittsburgh and Dallas.

The Bengals’ offensive problems are perhaps more concerning than Cincinnati’s winless start. Burrow, who was sacked 70 times a year ago, has already been sacked 13 times this season despite the Bengals’ significant investment in their offensive line during free agency. Despite the challenges, Burrow and his teammates remain steadfast in their decision.

“O-and-two is tough, but don’t panic,” Barrow said, via The Athletic . “There’s still a lot left to play.”

“We’re looking to win right now,” running back Joe Mixon said. “There’s no need to panic, but eventually we have to start going. We know what we have in our locker room. Our defense blew up. We have to do everything we can offensively to counter what’s going on. It’s a sad situation, but we have to dig yourself out.”

The Titans, one of the teams the Bengals beat during last year’s playoff run, are also 0-2 after a tough loss at Buffalo on Monday night. The Titans and Bengals are the most surprising of the five teams that are now 0-2 entering Week 3 of the regular season.

It’s not a road well traveled, but teams that started 0-2 did make it to the Super Bowl. Four teams overcame 0-2 starts to advance to the big game. Three of those teams walked away from the Super Bowl with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, proving that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

Here’s a look at the four teams the Bengals and Titans will try to join in the history books when all is said and done.

  • Finished 12-4, No. 1 in the NFC East
  • Defeated the Bills 30-13 in Super Bowl XXVIII

The main reason for the slow beginning: Emmitt Smith, the league’s leading rusher last season, missed the first two games because of a contract dispute. Without Smith, the defending champion Cowboys lost to Washington in Week 1. A three-point loss in a Super Bowl rematch with Buffalo was enough to convince Jerry Jones to put Smith at the negotiating table and get him back on the field.

The main reason for fast processing: With Smith back, the Cowboys have won six straight games, with Smith throwing for a career-high 237 yards against the Eagles. Smith capped off his MVP season with an all-time performance in the Cowboys’ regular season finale against the Giants. Despite a torn shoulder, Smith ran for 168 yards and caught 10 passes for 61 yards and a score as Dallas won in overtime.

In the playoffs, Smith had 418 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns. He won MVP honors after rushing for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the Cowboys’ second straight Super Bowl victory over Buffalo.

  • Finished 11-5, 1st in AFC East
  • Lost to the Packers 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI

The main reason for the slow start: During the first two games, the Patriots were hampered by turnovers. They fumbled four times, with one leading to the game’s first touchdown in a Week 1 loss to Miami. The next week, they took an early lead in Buffalo before a special teams fumble set up a good one for the Bills. New England later tied the game before Jim Kelly scored the game-winning touchdown in the closing minutes.

The main reason for fast processing: They never completely solved the turnover problem, but for the most part, the Patriots were able to overcome their shortcomings by the end of the season. New England’s defense, heavily influenced by assistant head coach Bill Belichick, forced many turnovers that often made up for offensive mistakes. During the last 14 games of the season, the “Patriots” offensive lineman committed 21 losses. New England’s defense, led by pro bowler Willie McGinest, linebackers Chris Slade and Ted Johnson, and defensive ends Ty Lowe, Advocate Milloy and Willie Clay, forced 36 turnovers (including the postseason) after an 0-2 start.

Along with the defense, the Patriots got big individual efforts from defensive end Drew Bledsoe, running back Curtis Martin and rookie receiver Terry Glenn. Each player was named to the Pro Bowl while leading an offense that ranked second in the league in scoring.

However, the losses reared their ugly head in Super Bowl XXXI. The Patriots briefly led the favored Packers, but were eventually outplayed four times. In the loss, New England’s defense held reigning league MVP Brett Favre and the Packers’ high-scoring offense to a single point in the second half.

2001 Patriots

  • Finished 11-5, 1st in AFC East
  • The Rams won 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI

The main reason for the slow start: New England’s offense scored just 20 points in the first two games. The Pats managed just three points against the Jets in Week 2 before Jets quarterback Mo Lewis threw Bledsoe out of bounds late in the game. The injury was serious as Bledsoe was hospitalized for treatment of a severed blood vessel in his chest.

The main reason for fast processing: With Bledsoe on the mend, Tom Brady is in the lineup for the third game of the year against Peyton Manning and the Colts. New England dominated the game in all three aspects and ran its record to 5-4 entering Sunday night’s showdown with the Rams and their “Greatest Show on Grass” offense. The Patriots lost in a tight game, but it was enough for Belichick to declare Brady the player for the rest of the season.

The 2001 Patriots never lost again, winning their final six games of the regular season to clinch a playoff berth. They were the beneficiaries of the legendary “pull-up rule” in the divisional round before upsetting the Steelers in the AFC title game. In Super Bowl XXXVI, they blew a 17–3 lead against the Rams before winning the game on Adam Vinatieri’s last-second field goal.

2007 Giants

  • Finished 10-6, 2nd in NFC East
  • Defeated the Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII

The main reason for the slow start: The Giants defense scored 80 points in the first two games of the season. Tony Romo torched New York for 345 yards and four scores in Week 1. Brett Favre threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns in Week 2 as the Giants’ season ended before Week 3.

The main reason for fast processing: Led by a defensive line that consisted of Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, the Giants defense played much better after their rough start. The Giants scored fewer than 20 points in five of their next six games to go 6-2 at the midway point.

At 10-5, the Giants had already clinched a playoff spot when the 15-0 Patriots came to town in Week 17. Despite having nothing to play for, the Giants played the starters and nearly ended the Patriots’ perfect season. They didn’t win that night, but five weeks later on pro football’s biggest stage, the Giants beat the Patriots in the second-greatest upset in Super Bowl history. Eli Manning’s late game heroics will live on in Super Bowl history.

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