Joe Burrow threw four touchdown passes, three for running back Samaje Perine, and the Cincinnati Bengals rallied the Pittsburgh Steelers 37-30 on Sunday.
The Bengals (6-4) won for the fourth time in five games relying heavily on Perine, who thrived as starter Joe Mixon missed the second half after following NFL protocol on the concussions.
Burrow completed 24 of 39 passes for 355 yards on the day he became the third fastest player in NFL history to reach 10,000 career passing yards. Perine ran for 30 yards and caught four passes from 52 yards, rushing three times into the end zone as defenders tasked with covering chased him to no avail.
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Pittsburgh (3-7) saw its chance to repeat the Week 1 upset it pulled off at Cincinnati in September vanish in the second half as a 20-17 lead slipped away. Rookie Kenny Pickett passed for 265 yards and a touchdown and Najee Harris rushed for 90 yards and two scores, but the NFL’s second-lowest offense spat for most of the second half.
Burrow spent the first half separating the Steelers underneath. Pittsburgh adjusted by having their defensive front throw up their hands to tip passes or disrupt Burrow’s timing. It worked occasionally, with Levi Wallace intercepting a pass on a deflection and TJ Watt making an otherworldly trap in the third quarter.
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The Bengals responded by asking Burrow to start looking deep, connecting with Tyler Boyd and practicing calling Tyler Irwin for long wins on an eight-play, 93-yard drive in the fourth quarter that s ended with Perine dragging Wallace across the goal line for a 6-yard score that made it 34-23 with 4:35 remaining.
Cincinnati has won four of five against the Steelers. The Bengals had lost 14 of their previous 15 to longtime foes AFC North.
All but one of these losses occurred before Burrow arrived. His combination of poise, precision and swagger lifted a franchise’s fortunes and shifted the balance of power in a rivalry that Pittsburgh dominated for long stretches.
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Burrow didn’t get there without enduring some growing pains as a rookie in 2020. Pickett finds himself in the same spot after being handed the keys to the offense midway through Week 3.
As the Steelers showed progress during a back-and-forth first half — Pittsburgh’s 20 points matched the most points it had scored in regulation this season — the momentum stalled in the second half.
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Four of the Steelers’ first five possessions after halftime ended in a punt, giving Burrow all the space he needed to effectively end any small outside chance Pittsburgh had of being a factor in the division race on the stretch.