The second game of the Joe Burrow regime was much like the first: frustrating in a thousand ways and certainly winnable..yet squandered by senseless mistakes and outright failure on defense this time around. Also similar to last weekend, Joe Burrow looked every bit the part of Cincy’s future franchise quarterback. Here’s how the contest shook out:
Cincinnati lost the opening coin toss but received the opening kick, driving for a few first downs following another 40-yard Brandon Wilson kick return before shorting out in range for a 38-yard Randy Bullock field goal. He made it, lingering calf soreness and all!
Cleveland proceeded to score two touchdowns in a row with little bother from the Bengals defense; in fact, did they even bother to wake up this morning? Chubb stormed into the end zone for their first score and Baker Mayfield hit Odell Beckham Jr. for a forty-plus yard TD in the second quarter. 14-3 Browns.
The next score came in the middle of the second quarter when Joe Burrow zipped a 23-yarder between two Brown defenders and into the hands of tight end CJ Uzomah — who went down with an ugly leg injury in the fourth quarter. But the Browns struck the end zone one more time before half with a Chubb-dominated drive ending in a Kareem Hunt catch for six points and 1:30 on the clock.
With the remaining minute and a half, Burrow and Cincy jostled for field goal position and Bullock put the Bengals within eight heading into the break, 21-13.
In one of the lone defensive positives of the evening, the first Browns drive of the half ended at the one-yard line after the Bengals stood tall on a four-play first-and-goal-at-the-one possession. Cincinnati took advantage of their monumental goal-line stand by fumbling the football back to the one six plays later. Even Cleveland made Cincinnati pay for such a crucial mistake as two plays later, Nick Chubb punched the pigskin into the end zone for a 28-13 lead.
Following that particular knife-turning string of events, Cincinnati waddled down the field in a mammoth fifteen-play third-quarter drive that resulted in a field goal. 28-16. There’s your football game. Three possessions. Cleveland turns it over, Cincinnati gives it right back, Cleveland scores and Cincy eats half a quarter of clock with three points and a twelve-point deficit to show for it.
In the fourth quarter, Cleveland marched right down the field again but starting corner William Jackson III splintered through Mayfield’s passing lane and picked off a deep ball, setting up a last gasp push for Burrow and the Bengals. The offense delivered. After two Mixon runs on the first two plays, Burrow controlled the next 13 snaps either with his legs or his arm, ending the possession after a billion Browns penalties and a Mike Thomas reception.
Alas, all hope flew back out the window as Cleveland gashed the Bengals pathetic front seven with their two-headed running back duo of Chubb and Hunt, with Hunt taking a one-yarder into the end zone for a game-sealing score.
Cincinnati added one more touchdown on a pass to Tyler Boyd with under a minute but failed on the onside kick, thus ending another underwhelming Bengals performance in prime time.
Let’s start the general takeaways with Joe Burrow, the only reason to have a positive Cincinnati Bengals conversation after two weeks. He settled in a lot quicker. Cleveland has less firepower in the secondary and Myles Garrett isn’t quite as disruptive as Joey Bosa yet (although both are top, top-end defensive lineman), but Burrow, in week two, was less nervous, more direct and just as aggressive with his legs while taking a few less hits. The progression between starts is what you want to see from a rookie quarterback, especially one who didn’t participate in a preseason or an official, all-hands-on-deck training camp.
At a whopping 61 passing attempts, Burrow completed 37 for a grand-total 316 passing yards and 3 touchdowns with just 3 sacks this week. The numbers are inflated because of the garbage time push but all-around Burrow looked more comfortable from start to finish but still had half a dozen complete misses, which he’ll hopefully get under control as the season progresses.
As for the coaching, the offensive playcalling met whatever I could expect this time around. AJ clearly isn’t peak-AJ anymore, Mixon struggled, Auden Tate was out, Uzomah went out late, and Burrow maintained a productive night for the whole unit. Any offensive worries aside from the O-line should stave off until Burrow has a few more weeks under his belt. But let’s not lose sight: this offense put up 30 against one of the more talented–not best–defenses they’ll meet.
Cincinnati picks up their first season under Joe Burrow ten days from now, ideally rested, against the playoff-focused Philadelphia Eagles. Another bruising D-line matchup for the rookie to get swallowed up by. Wish the boys the best and let’s get
back on the winning track next time out.