Relieved Cincinnati Bengals now look for momentum
Never publicly effusive with his thoughts, Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow tweeted Sunday night for the first time in a awhile after the Bengals upended the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Winning is fun,” the 23-year-old rookie from LSU tweeted to his nearly 435,000 followers.
Fun, indeed, especially if you play for the Bengals, who didn’t win a game until Week 13 of last year’s 2-14 debacle. The first win of the year takes some of the pressure off for sure, but Burrow was probably smart to keep it brief and not make any predictions for the rest of the season.
The Bengals’ offense, despite some confounding offensive line issues, shredded a bad Jacksonville defense on the way to a 33-25 win. Running back Joe Mixon rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns and scored another on a pass from Burrow. Burrow passed for exactly 300 yards, becoming the first NFL rookie to pass for 300 or more in three consecutive games.
With Burrow on fire, the Bengals are trending up, as they say, but Sunday’s game against quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens (3-1) likely will be a better indicator of their progress.
But getting that first win, which also happened to be Burrow’s first NFL victory, makes everything better.
“You’re not seeing big celebrations in the locker room,” coach Zac Taylor said Monday. “That’s not what we’re about right now.
“It wasn’t like last year, getting those wins last year. This year is different. Our expectations are different.”
The running game got uncorked, with Mixon breaking away for some chunk plays on the way to one of the best days of his career. The offensive line certainly was better. Burrow had another tick or two to find receivers downfield. The defense did a decent job of caging Jags scrambling quarterback Gardner Minshew.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Bengals left a lot of points on the field. Burrow overthrew an open A.J. Green on a third-down play early. Later in the first quarter, a Burrow-to-Tyler Boyd 16-yard TD pass was negated by a holding call and Cincinnati had to settle for field goal. Later, Burrow threw an interception in the end zone from the 1-yard line. The Bengals scored on every possession of the second half but had to settle for field goals on the last three.
Right guard Alex Redmond was activated from the practice squad and started in front of struggling Fred Johnson and Billy Price. Coincidence or not, the line seemed to jell better, and a Redmond block helped give Mixon a lane outside to break away for a 34-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. He later was right in the middle of breaking Mixon for a 23-yard scoring romp up the middle.
Linebacker Jordan Evans picked up a sack and an interception Sunday.
Green has been the invisible man. With Boyd and rookie Tee Higgins getting a lot of the attention, the 32-year-old veteran has 14 catches for 119 yards through four weeks. He injured his wrist at some point in Sunday’s game.
Other than Green, who should be OK to play Sunday, Cincinnati came out fairly unscathed. Mixon was limited in practice last week with an unspecified chest injury but said he felt fine after the game.
1 — Number of times Burrow was sacked Sunday after going down an NFL-high 14 times in the first three games. The sack he did take was designed to take time off the clock.
The offensive line needs to be as good as it was against Jacksonville every week for Burrow to do his thing. Continuing to establish the run early opens up more options for him in the passing game. Cincinnati needs to generate some momentum and string together balanced games, starting with the AFC North rival Ravens in Baltimore.