Hello Bengals fans, and welcome to Chalk Talk.
This is the start of our 10-part series looking at each and every game Joe Burrow played in his rookie season. The good, the bad, the development over the course of the season.
In the season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers, Burrow completed 23 of 36 passes for 193 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. He was sacked three times and ran the ball eight times for 46 yards, half of which came on his 23-yard touchdown run.
They did not really unleash Burrow in his first game, which makes sense, but he did show an excellent command of the offense.
The team came into the season wanting to run the ball and utilize the play-action pass. It quickly became The Burrow Show, but in this game, you can see what they wanted to be which gives you a glimpse of what they might try to do next year after hopefully getting the offensive line straightened out.
Burrow did an excellent job with play-action passes.
In this first clip, the cornerback gains depth and the slot defender runs with the wheel. Burrow is running a play-action from under center, so he has to turn his back to the defense. Still, he quickly sees what the defense is doing and throws the ball to A.J. Green for a 14-yard gain.
The Bengals have seven players blocking and only two receivers releasing freely into their routes on this play-action pass.
With the two routes crossing, they were hoping to catch the defense in man. This would give the receivers a lot of open space to run and make a catch once they get to the opposite side of the formation.
Watch Burrow’s eyes. He looks to Tyler Boyd and starts to move his arm back to throw, but seeing that the cornerback has fallen off of Green and is sinking under Boyd’s route, Burrow holds on to the ball. That was a smart move by Burrow and prevented a potential interception.
Boyd comes open moments later, but Burrow doesn’t have enough time to find him. Felling the pressure, Burrow scrambled and picked up four yards on the play.
A few plays later, the Bengals went back to the play-action pass.
Once again, this required Burrow to turn his back to the defense, but when he got his head around he quickly saw that the flat defender had been sucked in by the play-action, so he delivered the ball to C.J. Uzomah for 19 yards and a first down.
Burrow is known for his ability to read the field when you spread the defense out, but on these play-action passes he showed that he can make reads even when his eyes aren’t focused on the defense the entire time.
Burrow did not throw a touchdown pass in this game, but there were opportunities.
In the third quarter, he targeted John Ross in the end zone. He may have overthrown this a little, but Ross should have been able to make a play on it.
Two plays later he looked for Green in the end zone and flat out missed him. In Burrow’s word’s: “A high schooler can make that throw.”
He also targeted Uzomah on a seam in the first quarter, but unfortunately, the tight end got tripped up and was unable to make a play on the ball
On the very next play, however, Burrow showed the smarts that make him special. With the defense spread out by the empty formation and no linebacker in the box, Burrow audible to a QB Draw. This was an incredible call for a rookie starting in his first NFL game. He even paused to set up the block on the safety by Trey Hopkins. This block sprung him for the 23-yard touchdown run.
When asked about his performance after the game, Burrow gave himself a D. Between some misses and an interception on a pass he should have never thrown, you can understand why he would be hard on himself, but Burrow made some impressive reads and showed a real command of the offense.
Burrow was far from perfect, but showed real promise in his first outing.