Bengals Super Bowls Are Cris Collinsworth’s True Calling
Once again, a football truth is revealed: The Cincinnati Bengals cannot appear in a Super Bowl without the presence of Cris Collinsworth.
This time, as the Bengals and Los Angeles Rams meet in the 2022 Super Bowl, Collinsworth’s contribution will be as the lead analyst on NBC’s broadcast, along with longtime play-by-play partner Al Michaels. It is the third time the Bengals have played in a Super Bowl in their history.
The first two times, in 1982 in Super Bowl 16 and ’89 in Super Bowl 23, both against the San Francisco 49ers, bookended Collinsworth’s playing career as a wide receiver. Collinsworth was drafted by the Bengals in the second round (37th overall) of the 1982 NFL Draft an All-American from the University of Florida and quickly became one of their top players of the decade.
But how did Collinsworth fare in his two Super Bowls as a player?
Collinsworth was among the lone Bengals’ bright spots in Super Bowl 16
As a rookie for the Bengals in 1981, Collinsworth set a team record for rookies with 67 receptions. He finished the regular season with 1,009 yards and eight touchdowns.
In seven career postseason games spanning his eight-year NFL career, Collinsworth had just one touchdown, and it did not come in either of his Super Bowl games, but it was still a critical catch. His touchdown against the Buffalo Bills in the 1981 Divisional Round broke a fourth-quarter tie and put the Bengals in the AFC Championship Game against the San Diego Chargers.
That game is famous for being the coldest game, in terms of wind chill (-59), in NFL history. Collinsworth had two catches for 28 yards in the 27-7 victory that put the Bengals in the Super Bowl against Joe Montana’s 49ers.
Collinsworth had a big game against San Francisco, catching five passes for 107 yards. But he also had a critical fumble after one reception in the second quarter, losing the ball on the San Francisco 5-yard line. The 49ers then drove 92 yards the other way for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead before settling for a 26-21 victory.
Collinsworth ended his playing career in the Super Bowl 23 rematch with the 49ers
Collinsworth would play eight seasons with the Bengals, despite a failed bid to jump to the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits in 1985. He topped 60 receptions five times and gained over 1,000 yards four times, coming within 11 yards of a fifth 1,000-yard season in 1985. Over his first six seasons, Collinsworth caught 35 touchdowns.
But by 1988, it was clear Collinsworth’s career was coming to an end. In 13 games played ’88, Collinsworth had 13 receptions for 227 yards and one touchdown.
But in the Super Bowl rematch against the 49ers, in what proved the final game of his career, Collinsworth turned in one of his most productive performances of the season, catching three passes for 40 yards. But like the rest of the Cincinnati offense, he watched helplessly as Montana drove the 49ers the length of the field in the final minutes before hitting John Taylor with the winning touchdown with 34 seconds left.
Trailing 20-16, the final two pass plays of the game saw Boomer Esiason throw incomplete passes intended for Collinsworth.
The 2022 Super Bowl will be Collinsworth’s fifth as a broadcaster
Collinsworth didn’t win a Super Bowl as a player, but he has found considerable post-playing career success with the Super Bowl over the past 20 years as a broadcaster.
Collinsworth called his first Super Bowl as an announcer in 2005, as part of a three-man booth on Fox with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, as the New England Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 39.
Collinsworth later drew the plum assignment of replacing the retired John Madden as NBC’s lead football analyst on Sunday Night Football with Al Michaels, sliding his seat into three more Super Bowls, all again featuring the Patriots, including the famous Eli Manning-to-Mario Manningham game in Super Bowl 46 and the Malcolm Butler goal-line interception in Super Bowl 49. His most recent Super Bowl was the second Patriots-Eagles game in 2018.
Now he calls his first non-Patriots Super Bowl, undoubtedly hoping his former team finally earns the ring he could not secure as a player.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference