Three takeaways from the Cincinnati Bengals’ opening-game 24-3 loss at the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
1. The real Joe Burrow was nowhere to be found
Blame it on the rain. Blame it on his tender calf muscle. Blame it on the fact that he not only missed all three of Cincinnati’s preseason games but plenty of Bengals practices, as well, but quarterback Joe Burrow looked nothing like a $275 million quarterback on Sunday.
The league’s highest-paid player, as of last Thursday, was a pedestrian 6 of 14 passing for just 36 yards in the first half. He finished the rainy afternoon 14 of 31 for a career-low 82 yards with not a touchdown nor an interception.
In the early part of the game, Burrow appeared to have trouble gripping the football. His throws were floaters or shot puts toward receivers running short routes. He finally went to a glove on his throwing hand, which helped a little. But not much. His longest completion was just 12 yards.
We’ve seen this before. Last season, as a matter of fact. Burrow got off to a slow start, throwing four interceptions in Cincinnati’s overtime loss to Pittsburgh. He recovered to lead the Bengals all the way back to the AFC title game. He’ll recover again this year. He’s too good not to bounce back.
2. Cincinnati’s offense didn’t help Burrow out
Around Burrow, the Bengals failed to produce much of a running game to help out their quarterback. Cincinnati ended up with 75 rushing yards on 20 attempts. The result: The Bengals never even reached the red zone.
Give Cleveland’s defense credit. New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has made a difference. While Burrow was sacked just twice, he was continually under pressure. Joe Mixon was held to 56 yards on his 13 carries. Ja’Marr Chase caught five balls, but for just 39 yards.
Overall, Cincinnati managed just 143 yards. Newcomer Brad Robbins punted 10 times. Just an abysmal afternoon all the way around.
3. The Bengals have to bounce back quickly
Here’s a reminder that Cincinnati started last season 0-2 and came within a few points of a return trip to the Super Bowl. Here’s a reminder that the Bengals have another tough NFC North matchup next Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens come to Paycor Stadium.
The Ravens opened their season with a 25-9 win over the visiting Houston Texans on Sunday. Lamar Jackson was an efficient 17 of 22 for 169 yards through the air for new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers caught nine passes for 78 yards.
Facing rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, the No. 2 overall selection in this year’s draft, the Ravens held the Texans to a mere three field goals. Houston gained 268 total yards overall — compared to 265 for Baltimore — but couldn’t get the ball in the end zone.
The Bengals took two out of three from the Ravens a year ago. Baltimore won the first meeting 19-17 in Baltimore on Oct. 9. Cincinnati prevailed in the regular-season finale 27-16 in Cincinnati. The two teams met again a week later in an AFC Wild Card game in Cincy. The Bengals won that one, as well, 24-17.