Joe Burrow, Bengals come up short in loss to Chargers after late A.J. Green penalty, FG miss

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Eric Edholm
·4 min read
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As far as first career starts go, it’s hard to complain with much of what Joe Burrow did in Week 1 for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Burrow ripped off a gorgeous 23-yard QB draw for his first NFL touchdown. After a slow start throwing, he heated up in the second half. It wasn’t enough, as the Bengals missed a potential game-tying field goal by Randy Bullock in the final seconds.

The Los Angeles Chargers took a knee, hanging on for the 16-13 victory at Paul Brown Stadium.

Burrow led the Bengals down the field on the impressive final drive and did almost everything he could have to give the Bengals a chance. As far as what you could expect from a No. 1 overall pick in a year with no offseason and no preseason games, Burrow’s effort was mostly encouraging.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was hit far too many times by the Los Angeles Chargers. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was hit far too many times by the Los Angeles Chargers. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

On that final drive — with no timeouts — Burrow appeared to hit A.J. Green on what could have been a go-ahead touchdown with seven seconds remaining. Green, however, was called for offensive pass interference.

The Bengals were hot about it, but it appeared to be the right call, as Green extended his arms to gain space against the Chargers’ Casey Hayward. It spoiled a brewing connection in Burrow’s debut with Green, who caught five passes for 51 yards, despite the receiver returning to practice only three days ago.

The Bengals needed to settle for Bullock’s field-goal try, which missed right. The kicker appeared to grab his right leg after the miss.

Burrow finished the game 23-for-36 passing for 193 yards, no TDs and one interception. That pick came on his penultimate drive and can be chalked up as a rookie mistake.

Trailing by three midway through the fourth quarter, Burrow made a poor decision on a shovel pass — an interception right to the Chargers’ Melvin Ingram — with the Bengals in field-goal position. It was a mistake the likes of which we didn’t see much of during Burrow’s brilliant 2019 season in which he led LSU to a national title and took home the Heisman Trophy.

What was impressive was how he rallied to put his team in a position to win in his first NFL game.

And this much was clear: The Bengals need to improve their offensive line. And maybe add more reliable targets for Burrow, too. Not that he was fault-free in his debut.

In the first half, Burrow completed only nine of 14 passes for 51 yards amid a ton of pressure. He was hit six times and sacked three times.

You could argue that Burrow needed to feel the pressure better and get rid of it faster on Uchenna Nwosu’s 3-yard sack. It was one of the few knocks against Burrow from last season at LSU, and there appears to be some carryover into his rookie season in the NFL.

But on the sacks by Jerry Tillery and Joey Bosa — Burrow’s former Ohio State teammate — Burrow had no chance. It looked like multiple offensive linemen didn’t even get out of their stances on both plays before the Chargers were in the backfield.

When Burrow did have time, his receivers sometimes let him down. Burrow uncorked a pretty deep ball to John Ross, but Ross’s effort to grab what could have been a gorgeous touchdown was less than ideal. Two plays later, Burrow overthrew Green for another would-be score. Ross also double-caught a ball on the final drive that was called a catch initially before being overturned.

After the Chargers tied the game early in the fourth quarter at 13, Bengals running back Joe Mixon lost his first fumble in 622 touches dating to his rookie season. The Chargers then took their first lead, 16-13, converting it into a field goal after a good goal-line stand by Cincinnati.

That gave the ball back to Burrow with just under nine minutes left. The Bengals had to burn their final timeout with just over six minutes left when the play clock almost ran out, and after two impressive passes to tight end C.J. Uzomah for 15 and 19 yards, Burrow made his first rookie mistake with the pick to Ingram.

Burrow did a lot of good things in his debut. Now, he needs more help from his teammates going forward.

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