Welcome back to Week 2. This is Chalk Talk’s look back at Joe Burrow vs. the Browns in his second career start and first nationally-televised game.
If you haven’t seen the Week 1 installment, definitely check that out after this video.
In Week 1, Burrow threw for 193 yards. In Week 2, he took it up a notch, completing 37/61 for 316 yards and three touchdowns.
Zac Taylor came into the season, not wanting to put the team on the rookie’s back, but not being able to run the ball he realized in Week 2 that this team would go only as far as Burrow would take them.
Let’s take a look at some of Burrow’s key plays in this game.
The first thing that stands out about Burrow in this game is his ball placement on short and medium-range passes. He is phenomenal in that area.
Here he throws a slant to A.J. Green on 3rd and 5.
The safety is chomping at the bit, waiting for that ball to be thrown, and looking for the pick or a big-time collision, so Burrow can’t lead Green, he has to put the ball right on him. He does, and they pick up six yards to keep the drive alive.
Similarly, on this play, Green is running a dig route. The deep safety is behind him and running in the same direction. If Burrow leads him the safety will get there about the same time as the ball, so Burrow puts the ball behind him. Green adjusts and makes the catch for a 15-yard-gain. If Burrow put the ball in front of him, he would have had to take a big hit and may not have completed the catch.
In Week 1, we saw Burrow struggle to connect with his receivers on deep balls, and unfortunately that continued in Week 2. This was the first play of the game. It was originally called a catch but was called back. It was definitely possible for Green to make this catch in bounds, but Burrow didn’t need to put it quite so close to the sideline.
Burrow was able to connect on a deep touchdown pass to C.J. Uzomah and this pass was a very well-placed ball. Uzomah blows by the corner, but Burrow knows there is a safety sitting there waiting to make the play. The safety should be taking an angle over the top of Uzomah, so Burrow put the ball a bit behind him. Whether the safety read the ball really well or understanding that there is no point in being behind a receiver in the end zone, he took a direct route to the ball, he did not look to get on top. Still, Uzomah made the touchdown catch.
Burrow is not without blame for the lack of deep ball success with the Bengals, but it is not all about him. There were plays where the receiver didn’t look like he was on the same page with Burrow, and at others where they just didn’t do anything to help him out.
John Ross is not the only guilty party, but he presents an example of each. This is a good defensive effort, but Ross is not fighting to the catch-point.
Later Ross seemed surprised by this ball.
Those were Ross’ only two targets of the game and that was pretty much it for him as a Bengal.
This game set Tee Higgins’ season on the opposite path as Burrow started to develop trust in him.
This play features a ridiculous blitz-pick-up from Jonah Williams and a great display of athleticism from Burrow. Seeing that Burrow was in trouble and knowing he was open, Higgins stayed right where he was and was ready when Burrow got him the ball.
A tremendous effort from this trio turned a potential sack into a first down.
This play earlier in the game was equally impressive. Feeling the pressure, Burrow escaped the pocket and scrambled to his right. Higgins saw this and ran to the right sideline, where Burrow found him for an 18-yard gain. This was a huge play and the beginning of a special connection between the pair of rookies.
Burrow is an excellent athlete, but it’s more than that. He knows when to run, like he did for the 1st down on this 4th and 5 play, but he also knows to keep his eyes downfield, like he did on this nine-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd in the 4th quarter.
The Bengals needed Burrow to step up in order to have a chance in this game, and he did in a big way. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.
He really showed off his ball placement on short and medium-range passes and his ability to create plays after the play breaks down. Perhaps even more impressive though is that this was only his second game, and he was able to handle the pressure of the team leaning on him.