NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Joe Burrow keeps playing, yet the NFL’s highest-paid player with the lightning quick release clearly isn’t himself.
Blame the right calf strained back in training camp. The challenge for the Cincinnati Bengals is that they go as their quarterback goes.
Burrow threw for just 165 yards Sunday, and the Bengals had to settle for a field goal the one time they got close to the Tennessee end zone as Cincinnati lost 27-3 to the Titans.
“This was unacceptable …,” Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said. “And I’ve got the confidence that we’ve got everything we need in this locker room to get right and get back on track next week. Disappointing this is not the expectation we had going into this game.”
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Cincinnati won the coin toss and drove down the field with Burrow completing his first four passes, playing from the shotgun and making quick tosses. Then he got lucky Titans safety Amani Hooker didn’t pick him off on second-and-goal.
The Bengals got to the Titans 3 and had to settle for a field goal from Evan McPherson. They never got that close again in dropping to 1-3.
Burrow didn’t complete a pass longer than 17 yards, both short tosses that receivers helped with yards after the catches.
“We weren’t able to find it, weren’t able to complete balls down the field, weren’t able to really do anything,” Burrow said. “So, we’ve got a lot to get fixed.”
Cincinnati finished last season 12-4 winning the AFC North despite an 0-2 start. That team rebounded by winning its next two. With a chance to repeat that start Sunday, the Bengals were outgained 400-211 and let Tennessee play keep-away holding the ball for more than 34 minutes.
They also lost starting cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt to a concussion, and wide receiver Tee Higgins never returned from a rib injury after catching two passes for 19 yards.
“Whenever Tee’s not out there, we’re not as good of a football team,” Burrow said.
Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase did what he could to help his longtime teammate going back to their national championship win at LSU. Chase caught seven of nine passes for 73 yards.
“It’s probably my first time seeing him through an injury like this besides, you know, that knee,” Chase said of Burrow’s torn ACL in 2020 as a rookie. “But being on the team with him, this is the first time like that. So, he’s just going through a little adversity, and he’s going to be back and better in no time.”
For now, opposing defenses know Burrow won’t be scrambling around much or able to escape the pocket He ran three times for a net of 1 yard. That allows upcoming opponents to keep focusing on defending against the pass.
Two-time All-Pro Titans safety Kevin Byard said they made sure to take away Burrow’s options and especially know where Chase was at all times. Tennessee sacked Burrow three times and stripped him of the ball once.
The Bengals got lucky on one would-be turnover by Burrow with replay ruling his arm was going forward when hit and stripped by Titans linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair.
Burrow was asked about battling his instincts given he’s not fully healthy.
“It’s hard to say,” Burrow said. “Playing the way I’m playing, you’ve just got to get better in practice, continue to stack days, get better every day.”
He remains confident that the Bengals still can be a playoff team.
“That’s so far in the future we’ve just got to worry about tomorrow, and getting better tomorrow at this point,” Burrow said.
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