Joe Burrow threw the ball 61 times in the Bengals’ first game against the Browns five weeks ago. He doesn’t expect it to get that “weird” in the rematch this week.
Burrow believes the Bengals (1-4-1) are better now than when they lost 35-30 at Cleveland in Week 2 when an ineffective running game forced Cincinnati to get pass happy. He attempted an astounding 61 passes — second most for a rookie in NFL history — completing 37 for 316 yards and three touchdowns in his second pro start.
“That was kind of a weird game,” the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner and top overall draft pick said Wednesday. “They jumped out on us early, and so they played a lot more zone (defense) on us, tried to keep everything in front of them.”
Playing from behind, the Bengals had to keep going with the only thing that was working — mostly short passes.
“We dropped back 70-some times because they were rolling on offense, so we had to stay in the game” Burrow said. “I anticipate our team (will) play better as a unit and keep it a little closer.”
Bengals coach Zac Taylor isn’t making promises about how much responsibility he’ll put in the lap of his 23-year-old quarterback. Burrow leads the NFL in number of attempts (246) and is second in completions (160). He has four games with at least 300 passing yards and is among the league’s top 10 with more than 1,600 total yards — all while being sacked 24 times, second most in the league.
“We feel comfortable throwing the ball, and we’ll do whatever it takes to win the game,” Taylor said. “He’s had a lot of success throwing it.”
But in the loss to the Browns (4-2), the Bengals squandered some prime opportunities, a problem that dogged them throughout their dismal start.
Case in point: In one series in the third quarter against the Browns, Cincinnati had seven plays from inside the Cleveland 10-yard line and had to settle for Randy Bullock’s field goal. That included Tyler Boyd dropping a pass that what would’ve been a touchdown.
“(That) could have helped change the momentum in the game,” the fifth-year wideout said. “You know, that play still agitates me and bothers me a lot.”
Besides figuring out how to block Browns sack specialist Myles Garrett this week, the Bengals are dealing with some internal turmoil.
Veteran defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap are getting fewer snaps and both are frustrated with their reduced roles. The 32-year-old Atkins missed the first four games of the season with a shoulder injury. He’s back but has played sparingly in the last two games.
The 31-year-old Dunlap was dropped from the starting lineup earlier this season and voiced his displeasure in Zoom sessions with reporters and on social media. Taylor said Dunlap will be limited to mostly third downs, despite the fact that multiple other defensive linemen are sidelined with injuries.
Both are among the franchise’s all-time leaders in sacks, but have been nearly invisible this season.
Taylor has been measured in his response to the griping of the two veterans and other defensive players who have taken to social media to complain about how they are being used.
“When you face adversity sometimes things reveal themselves,” Taylor said Wednesday. “Sometimes that’s a really, really good thing for the future of the team.”
NOTES: RB Joe Mixon, who injured his foot in last week’s game, didn’t practice Wednesday. Taylor said his status for Sunday is still undetermined. ... DT tackle Mike Daniels (elbow) has been cleared to practice and may be available for the Browns game. He’s been on the injury list since Oct. 3. ... DT Andrew Brown was signed to the practice squad.