CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Burrow’s calf is sore again, meaning this year’s 0-2 start might not be like last year’s for the Bengals.
Cincinnati lost its first two games in 2022 but rallied behind Burrow to finish 12-4 and win the AFC North.
This year has been even more difficult so far. Burrow missed training camp with a calf injury, signed a $275 million contract before the season that made him the highest-paid player in the NFL by average annual salary, and then ended in a dud in a season-opening loss to Cleveland.
Burrow was better Sunday in a 27-24 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, but he limped off the field late in the fourth quarter and was seen rubbing his calf on the sideline. Although he said he could have gotten back in the game if the Bengals had had one more shot, he doesn’t know how that will play out Monday and Tuesday.
“It’s pretty painful,” Burrow said. “We don’t know what it’s going to be like. We will see in the coming days.
Another problem for Cincinnati is that both of this year’s losses have come to its AFC North rivals, leaving it in a hole heading into Monday night’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. Last year, only one of the first two games was against a divisional opponent.
The Bengals have seven games before facing another division opponent – at Baltimore on November 16.
The Bengals didn’t score the first offensive touchdown of the season until late in the third quarter. They added a score in the fourth quarter as the offense showed signs of life.
“When your quarterback misses camp, it’s hard to get going quickly,” Burrow said. “It’s not an ideal situation.”
The franchise QB was sacked just once after his line couldn’t contain Cleveland’s passers in the opener.
“I thought Burrow was great,” coach Zac Taylor said. “His protection was incredible. I felt like we were finding a rhythm.
Burrow, however, threw an interception in the red zone on the Bengals’ first possession of the second half.
“I thought we moved the ball well throughout the game,” Burrow said. “We did some good things in the first half and I thought we got going in the second half.
“It always comes down to that turnover in the red zone.”
Burrow finished 27 of 41 for 222 yards. The Bengals gained 219 of their 282 offensive yards after halftime.
NFL teams that start 0-2 historically have trouble making the playoffs, much less reaching the AFC Championship Game like Cincinnati did last year.
“That’s the beauty of a 17-game season,” Taylor said. “It’s a very difficult division. This is exactly where we were last year. It’s not ideal, but there have been a lot of positive things.
“We feel in great shape. We’ll make some fixes and adjustments and move forward.
Burrow’s confidence was not shaken.
“We need to have a good practice and a good week and build on that,” Burrow said. “We’re 0-2, but we’ve done it before. It’s not what you want, but we’ll bounce back. This is what we do.”
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl