Four. A victory Sunday would have meant four wins in a row against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time since 1990.
Four. That’s the number of interceptions thrown by Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback Joe Burrow in a season-opening 23-20 overtime loss.
“You got to give credit to the Pittsburgh Steelers,” said Bengals head coach Zac Taylor after the game. “They showed up ready to play, they made some plays on some balls that were really great plays.”
Of course, it’s a whole lot easier to make “really great plays” when the opposing quarterback is under constant pressure. Burrow was sacked seven times and hit four more. An offensive line that was supposed to be a strength was anything but.
“It’s frustrating, but I had faith that we’d come back,” Burrow said. “I’m proud of the way we played in the second half. We came back strong and put ourselves in position to win the game.”
And, with a few breaks, Burrow and the Bengals might have done just that. A missed extra point in regulation helped send the game into overtime, where a missed 29-year field goal attempt late spelled the beginning of the end.
Sunday marked the first time in either his NFL or collegiate career (and likely his high school career, as well) that Burrow had thrown as many as four interceptions in a game. His previous high was three, which he set last year in a loss to the Bears. Burrow matched that number in the first half alone and threw in a lost fumble as well.
“They made good plays,” Burrow said. “Obviously I’d like to have some of those back, and they made some good plays on some of them.”
Burrow finished the day with 33 completions in 53 attempts for 338 yards and two touchdowns, to go with those four interceptions.
Unfortunately, interceptions have become a part of Burrow’s game at the NFL level. Heading into Week 14 of last year, Burrow led the entire NFL with 14 interceptions. But he’s just going to keep throwing it, and that’s the way his coach wants it.
“Keep being aggressive,” Taylor said. “That’s what’s got us in the positions that we’ve been in. . . I wanted Joe to continue to be aggressive.”
Things didn’t work out so well this time around, but Taylor knows that this team is only going to go as far as Burrow carries it.
“It’s not the way we wanted to start the season,” Taylor said. “But we’re smart enough to know not to react. When you lose the turnover battle five to nothing, I don’t expect to win many games. We almost did. So you’ve got to find the silver lining there. There’s a lot of things we can continue to work on. We’ve got to take the ball off the other team, we’ve got to sack the quarterback more, we’ve got to protect our quarterback, we’ve got to have better ball security. I’ve got a lot of confidence that we will.”