Joe Burrow represents a new dawn for Bengals fans everywhere. The 2019 Heisman Trophy winner was selected first overall by the Bengals back in April. One COVID dominated off-season later and Burrow made his long-awaited debut at home, in front of an empty Paul Brown stadium, against the LA Chargers.
Burrow impressed mightily and was close to becoming the first number one selected quarterback to win his first game since David Carr in 2002. However, a pushing off call on Bengals wideout A.J. Green negated what would have been a game-winning touchdown for Burrow. And a disastrous miss by kicker Randy Bullock sealed the Bengals fate. Cincinnati lost 13-16 against the LA Chargers. Burrow begins his Cinncinati career 0-1.
Despite the painstaking loss, Burrow played admirably. Although the box score doesn’t light the world on fire – Burrow finished the game 23/36, 63.89% completion, 193 yards throwing, 46 yards rushing and one touchdown on the ground – the former LSU Tiger showed plenty of poise and reassured Bengals fans everywhere that they may have got their man.
Burrow did commit one or two rookie mistakes on Sunday. On two occasions the quarterback almost committed an unnecessary turnover trying to keep the play alive – a reckless trait most rookie quarterbacks possess.
Burrow did cause one turnover, throwing the ball to Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram in an attempted shovel pass. However, the turnover did not seem to affect the number one overall pick as Burrow came back and played a clean game the rest of the way.
Burrow’s eagerness to elongate dead plays was impacted heavily by the Chargers pass rush. Burrow was hit a lot on Sunday by a fearsome front four consisting of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Burrow was sacked three times, pressured three times and hit six times.
Another teething problem Burrow struggled with on Sunday was his deep ball. Per Sports Info Solutions, Burrow attempted five deep passes completing none of them. Although one missed pass you could note down as a drop by wide receiver John Ross, this missed touchdown throw to A.J. Green was especially egregious.
If Burrow is to take his game to the next level, these are the types of throws he simply has to make. Although, it speaks to the level of play Burrow can achieve that we are being this critical on a rookie quarterback in his first start. If Burrow can clean up some minor turnover issues, know when a play is over and practise that deep ball, he will be as sound as a rookie we’ve seen in years.
Composure and Poise
When watching Burrow on Sunday, one word came to mind again and again – composure. No one would blame Burrow for looking somewhat frazzled after being hit by Joey Bosa for the umpteenth time and, on top of that, having a shortened training camp. Nonetheless, Burrow came out, stood tall in the pocket time and time again and constantly showed poise and composure behind one of the worst offensive lines in football.
Take a look at this, albeit, small example. Burrow unexpectedly receives the ball off of an early snap. Instead of panicking with the might of the Chargers defence running at him, Burrow stays calm and delivers a strike across the middle of the field for the first down on 3rd & 2. Later on this drive, Burrow would go on to score the Bengals first touchdown of the game.
As mentioned earlier, the Chargers defensive front was getting after Burrow all game. They did so by imploying something reminiscent of the 49ers wide-9 front (this means that the Chargers d-line was spread out wide against the Bengals o-line in order to sack the quarterback at more an efficient rate.) Burrow caught on to this and took advantage of the space left in the centre of the trenches.
Using his, dare I say, sneaky athleticism, Burrow burst through the line of scrimmage, employed a veteran savvy move and sprinted into the endzone for six points.
This wasn’t even a quarterback designed run. Burrow just recognised the pattern up-front, snapped the ball, called is own number and delivered. Burrow would finish the game with 46 yards rushing on 5.75 yards per attempt. Although he’s not Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray back there, Zac Taylor and the Bengals would amiss to not utilise the rookie’s scrambling ability. Especially behind this shoddy offensive line.
The Final Drive
All of Burrow’s poise and composure shone through the rookie’s final drive of the game. With the Bengals down three points, Burrow drove down the field, going 8-11 for 70 yards. Along the way, Burrow made some impressive throws, threading the needle on a number of them – including this tight window throw for the first down.
Burrow was decisive in his decision making. Accurate in his throws. And would have capped on a masterful game-winning drive with this would-be touchdown to A.J. Green. The play was negated due to an alleged push-off by Green. However, the Bengals could have forced overtime, but it was not to be. In typical ‘Bungles’ fashion, the kicker pulled a calf and shanked the field goal. Welcome to Cinncinati, Joe Burrow.
It’s Only Week One
As the sub-heading says, it’s important to remember that it is only Week One. Plenty can happen over the course of a sixteen game season and Burrow will have to put a lot more on tape to prove that he’s the man in Cinncinati. However, for the time being, Bengals fans can rest easy and dream that they have found the guy.