Joe Burrow plays despite calf injury, leads Bengals to first win

ben babyespn staff writerSeptember 26, 2023, 02:13 am ETread 3 minutes

CINCINNATI – When it came to Joe Burrow’s play on Monday night, one thing mattered most: If the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback felt well enough to compete, he wanted to be on the field.

Eight days after suffering a right calf strain, Burrow played every offensive snap and helped lead the Bengals to their first win of the season, a 19–16 decision over the Los Angeles Rams.

The Bengals (1-2) were facing their first possible three-game losing streak since Burrow’s rookie season in 2020. This was a major factor in Burrow pushing hard to play in a prime-time game despite a calf problem.

“There’s a risk of going in there and potentially damaging it again,” Burrows said. “But there’s also the risk of not going out there and going 0-3. So I wanted to be there for my guys, and I was confident I’d be able to do what I needed to to get the win.”

Burrow was 26 of 49 passing for 259 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Afterward, he acknowledged that he and the offense needed to improve. However, his performance was adequate on the night as Cincinnati linebacker Logan Wilson had two interceptions and the defense tallied six sacks and held the Rams to one touchdown on four red zone drives.

Burrow said he worked out Monday morning and felt good enough to play. He said that there is no flaw in the criteria. Once he practiced on Friday and Saturday, he said he was confident in his ability to compete and expressed his sentiment to team personnel.

Bengals wide receiver Jamar Chase had been vocal all week that Burrow would not play if he was not fully healthy, and Chase reiterated that opinion before the game.

Chase said, “I was like, ‘You’re crazy, boy. I didn’t want you to play.’ “It shows that Joe is tough. But he’s a football player, man. You can’t beat him by being tough like that. They don’t make a lot of quarterbacks tough like that.”

Burrow responded to Chase by telling him he was going to get the ball more often against the Rams (1-2). And that’s exactly what happened: Chase had 12 catches on 15 targets for 141 yards, including a 43-yard completion that tested Burrow’s calf.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor, the team’s offensive lineman, ran a fake toss for Burrow, in which he rolled to his right without any protection. He got a wide-open chase for Cincinnati’s longest play of the season.

Taylor said that the decision to expose Burrow in this way came from a discussion in the days before the game about whether both felt comfortable about it. Another conversation took place between the coach and the quarterback before the game which ultimately determined a field goal.

“I asked him about the first few plays and he felt good about it,” Taylor said. “It’s a quick toss, probably seven steps before it’s off the bench route for the jammer.”

The Bengals didn’t need Burrow to step up a ton. All they needed was for it to be mobile enough. Burrow said he was cautious about playing long and was not shy about throwing the ball quickly when trying to advance in the game.

Despite being sacked twice and hit six times, with Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald recording two of those hits, Burrow was on the field by the end of the contest.

The signal-caller knows that calf injuries can escalate over the course of the season. But Monday’s performance was a promising sign as the Bengals prepare for a road game against the Tennessee Titans.

“We didn’t have any setbacks today, but it’s still day-to-day,” Burrows said. “I’ve learned through this process that it can happen at any time.

“It was good to deal with that. And it means we’ll be stronger for this week.”

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