The Browns had been blown out by the Ravens only four days before hosting the Bengals.
Not that we thought the Bengals would beat the Browns 38-6, but it gave us hope that the Browns were the same pushovers that we are used to seeing.
That ended up not being the case. The Browns’ offense scored seemingly at will, and their defense made Joe Burrow play his heart out to keep it close.
Because Burrow was one of the few positives from the game on Thursday, we’ll focus mostly on him for this week’s What We Learned.
But for those who want to hear about the rest of the team, here’s a quick rundown:
- The key to beating Baker Mayfield is to keep him in the pocket. The Bengals’ pass rush completely failed. Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson couldn’t even get pressure against a rookie who had never played left tackle before.
- The Bengals’ defensive line is really missing Geno Atkins and Mike Daniels. Hopefully the long week helps their recovery.
- Tackling is a problem for the Bengals. The amount of yards Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt gained after contact is unacceptable.
- Brandon Wilson is a great kick returner.
So, there’s that. But now let’s talk about Joe Burrow.
He threw the ball 61 times, second-most ever for a rookie. That’s a lot of passing attempts to learn from.
His 37 completions were the most ever for a rookie since 1950. This proves the point that Burrow is no longer a rookie.
Everything we’ve been hearing about Burrow from LSU has been true. From his intelligence to his leadership to his competitiveness, he’s got everything the Bengals’ asked for. And that doesn’t even include his physical traits or athletic ability.
After watching 61 passing attempts, here’s what we learned about Joe Burrow.
The Bengals are already scheming to his strengths
One of Burrow’s strengths is his ability to read the field and find open receivers in space. He loved to run out of five wide receiver sets because it spread the defense out and made it easier to read.
So on Thursday, the Bengals operated out of empty backfield formations and spread the defense out.
To put it in perspective, this was Burrow’s career second game with no preseason. This is something most rookies wouldn’t be able to do.
It’s clearly working well, which is evidenced by the next point.
Joe Burrow is spreading the ball
Of course, when you throw the ball 61 times, your receivers are bound to have inflated production.
That being said, eight receivers had three or more catches on Thursday. Six players had four or more.
Even Joe Mixon and Givoani Bernard combined for nine catches. Drew Sample was second on the team in targets and receiving yards, and tied for first in receptions. Drew Sample.
The even crazier thing is that seven of the nine receivers caught more than half of their targets. The only ones who didn’t were John Ross (who had zero catches on two targets) and A.J. Green.
Clearly, Burrow is really good at reading the field. He’s not going to a particular read or making throws to predetermined targets. He’s just finding whoever is open.
Crunch time is Burrow time
When the Bengals need to put the game on Burrow’s back, he delivers.
Burrow was five for five on fourth downs. Five for five! When’s the last time the Bengals even attempted five fourth down plays, let alone convert them.
Burrow was four for four on fourth downs for 47 yards, and he scrambled once for a seven-yard gain.
For most of the second half, the Bengals were chipping away at the lead. On every possession, the hope was that the offense could score and the defense could stop the Browns.
The defense failed at stopping the Browns most of the time, but Burrow held up his end of the deal. And in a game where the defense and the offensive line gave him no help, he kept the Bengals within five points of the Browns.
From what little we’ve seen, Burrow is great when the team is behind. We haven’t seen much from Burrow with a lead, but he’s already proven how good he is trailing.
Chemistry with A.J. Green is taking time
In week one, people were criticizing Odell Beckham Jr. for only catching three of his targets.
Well, look how the tables have turned.
Green is the one with three catches and twelve targets this week.
It makes sense why Burrow would want to target Green more than anyone else, but it you would think Green would come down with more than a quarter of his targets.
One thing that is worrisome is how Burrow keeps missing him on deep balls. But Burrow missed on a lot of short-to-medium throws as well.
They didn’t get much time together in training camp, so it’s not time to worry yet. If this trend continues for another few weeks, then it might be time to panic.