Now is not the time for excuses. Yet, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow offered a few anyway.
“Those things happen when your quarterback doesn’t perform in training camp,” Burrow said after the game. “That was obviously something I would have liked to have done. But there are no excuses.”
Burrow missed all of preseason with a strained calf muscle. Last year, an emergency appendectomy kept him on the sidelines. The year before, he was recovering from a torn ACL/MCL.
Last year, the Bengals opened at 0-2 before bouncing back to earn their second straight trip to the AFC Championship Game, which ended in a 23-20 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Cincinnati kicked off the 2023 campaign Sunday afternoon with a resounding 24-3 loss on a rainy and windy day at divisional rival Cleveland.
It was the kind of clunker Burrow, fresh off signing a 5-year, $275 million contract extension, had never seen before. The former Heisman Trophy winner threw for a career-low 82 yards (2.6 yards per attempt) as the NFL’s career completion percentage leader made good on just 14 of 31 passing attempts (45%), with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
“When it’s raining like that, it’s something you’ve got to handle,” Burrow said. “We didn’t handle it today.”
Enough for excuses. It’s time to find some answers.
“Nobody is panicking in here, guys,” Burrow said. “Week 1 doesn’t define anybody’s season. Obviously, not very good out there. Anybody that watched saw that. But we have been in this spot before and come back stronger and had great years. That’s what we are going to do.”
After getting off to a 4-4 start last year, Cincinnati ran off ten straight wins before the season-ending loss to the Chiefs. So maybe they have earned the benefit of the doubt.
Especially since slow starts are probably something Bengals’ faithful should get used to now, so long as head coach Zac Taylor continues his policy of not allowing his starters to play in the preseason. And remember - it’s not how you start that matters, it’s how you finish.
“This isn’t the team that we are going to be,” Taylor said. “We all understand that.”