Sheer brilliance. That is what Joe Burrow’s performance late against the San Francisco 49ers was.
Anyone who knows football knows that the Bengals’ second-year quarterback was absolutely on fire, connecting on tough, downfield throws time after time again. And one of the very best plays was completely unscripted.
This connection from Burrow to Chase is absolutely bonkers. Fantastic chemistry and ability to play off script. pic.twitter.com/VxSq2zd4s3— Mike (Sans) (@bengals_sans) December 13, 2021
Burrow would later connect with Ja’Marr Chase again for a touchdown to tie the game with just 1:19 remaining. His accuracy and aggression on that drive was just [chef’s kiss].
This drive is so special. The line doesn’t protect like it should (except the last play) . They know you’re passing but the Heart of a Champion is bigger. This is what no fear looks like. 9 to 85. 9 to 83. 9 to 1.— ZIM (@zimwhodey) December 13, 2021
Joey & the Migos was cooking. pic.twitter.com/VZfTTHE7jq
While fans of the Los Angeles Chargers will disagree, Burrow deserved every bit of the praise he received. Pro Football Focus had him at five big-time throws and a 90.3 passing grade.
Joe Burrow is PFF’s highest graded quarterback in Week 14.— Willie Lutz (@willie_lutz) December 13, 2021
- 90.6 offensive grade
- 90.3 passing grade
- 5 big time throws
- 14.3% big time throw rate
Including his 84.4% adjusted completion rate, a masterful performance from Burrow was wasted in the #Bengals loss. pic.twitter.com/LswUhCBidf
And yet, as we all know, the Bengals lost the game because they failed to remain aggressive in overtime. After Burrow got the team down to the 26-yard line following a 26-yard completion to Tee Higgins and a 23-yarder to C.J. Uzomah, Zac Taylor decided to run on first and second down (a decision he’d later regret terribly). Burrow would finally get to throw again on third down, though he was sacked by Nick Bosa, essentially forcing Cincinnati to kick the field goal. The 49ers, of course, scored a touchdown on their next drive to win the game.
While there is no point in ruminating on the decisions of that game now, the problem is that they are part of a larger trend. The Bengals under Burrow are one of the very best teams in the league when passing on first down, but they do it at a rate that is 28th in the league.
EPA Per Play by down this season for the Bengals:— Andrew Russell (@PFF_AndrewR) December 13, 2021
1st Down: 4th
2nd Down: 24th
3rd Down: 20th
4th Down: 18th
They're the highest-graded team in the NFL when passing on 1st down (92.5) yet they've only thrown the ball 178 times on 1st down, T-28th in the NFL.
Instead of letting Burrow set the tone and try to open things up with his downfield throws, the team is hoping to “establish the run,” perhaps to prevent the quarterback from getting hit by slowing down the game and giving him short yardage situations.
We debated Taylor’s decisions and the extent to which this should be Burrow’s offense in our preview of the upcoming game against the Denver Broncos. Watch below:
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Should Zac Taylor allow Burrow to be more aggressive (cook)?
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