CINCINNATI (AP) — After rallying the Bengals to a late win over the Jaguars, Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow said with matter-of-fact confidence that he is getting better every week.
The stats and his dauntless performances under pressure seem to suggest that it's not just talk.
The unflappable second-year quarterback, playing on a surgically repaired left knee, led the Bengals (3-1) to scores on all four second-half drives after falling behind 14-0 at halftime to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Burrow ended up throwing for a season-best 348 yards and two touchdowns in the 24-21 win Thursday night. He completed 25 of 32 attempts (78.1%) and is averaging nearly a 73% completion rate through four games. His 10.9 yards per completion against the Jaguars weere a season best.
Although Tee Higgins, last year's leading receiver, has been out with an injury, Burrow has looked to rookie Ja'Marr Chase, veteran Tyler Boyd and tight end C.J. Uzomah, who caught both of his touchdown passes on Thursday.
The last Uzomah connection was one of the most important and demonstrated Burrow's ability to adjust. On second-and-13 at the Jacksonville 46, Burrow saw a lane and checked to a screen pass to Uzomah, who with blockers in front of him rumbled for a 25-yard gain. That got Evan McPherson in range for the winning field goal.
“You guys have heard me talking about having the playbook in the back of my head and seeing looks I can take advantage of. That comes with experience," Burrow said.
“You always wants to start strong — we're 3-1, we're in a good spot,” he said. “Obviously, we had the one setback where we didn't play very well in Chicago, but we played pretty well the other three games. We're just going to keep building on it. I'm excited to have a bye weekend. It's going to be fun to watch some football, and kind of relax and get a head start on Green Bay.”
Pass protection for Burrow has come around since the first two games of the season in which he was sacked a total of nine times. Burrow was unscathed in last Sunday's 24-10 win over the Steelers and was sacked by the Jags just once Thursday night.
“It's been really fun to see,” coach Zac Taylor said.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
On the other hand, the ground game is kind of stuck in the mud. The offensive line couldn't break running back Joe Mixon free in the first half against Jacksonville, and eventually the Bengals put in extra linemen to make some space for him. He finished with 67 yards and hasn't had a 100-yard effort since the Week 1 win over the Vikings.
LB Logan Wilson has been everywhere. His three interceptions are tied for the league lead. He led the Bengals with 10 total tackles against Jacksonville. Along with Larry Ogunjobi, he stopped quarterback Trevor Lawrence short on a keeper on fourth down and the ball inside the Bengals 1 at the end of the first half. It was a turning point in the game.
Higgins missed another game with a shoulder injury, though it opened up things more for Chase, Boyd and especially Uzomah. Trenton Irwin even picked up his first catch of the season, a 25-yarder that helped set up the first Cincinnati score. ... Cincinnati's defensive line is still working on a consistent pass rush. Lawrence was sacked once and hit just two other times.
Mixon limped off the field Thursday night with an ankle injury and is considered day to day. Same with Higgins, S Jessie Bates (neck), Chidobe Awuzie (groin) and G Xavier Su’a-Filo (knee).
9 - Burrow touchdown passes through four games. Burrow had six through four games in 2020.
The Bengals have some extra time to prepare for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who visit Paul Brown Stadium a week from Sunday. They can use the extra days to get some of their key players healthy again.
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