Joe Burrow, playing through a calf injury, leads the Bengals to their first win

Yes babyESPN staff writerSep 26, 2023, 02:13 AM ET3 minutes of reading

CINCINNATI — One thing was very important when Joe Burrow played Monday night: If the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback felt well enough to play in the contest, he wanted to be on the field.

Eight days later, after straining his right calf, Burrow played every snap and helped the Bengals to their first win of the season, a 19-16 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

The Bengals (1-2) face their first possible three-game losing streak since Burrow’s rookie season in 2020. Despite the calf issue, it’s a big factor in Burrow pushing hard to play in a prime-time game.

“There’s a risk of going out there and re-injuring it,” Burrow said. “But there’s also the risk of not going out there and being 0-3. So I just wanted to be out there for my guys and have confidence that I can do what it takes to get the win.”

Burrow went 26-for-49 passing for 259 yards with touchdowns and one interception. Later, he agreed that he and the offense should be better. However, their performance was good enough on the night as Cincinnati linebacker Logan Wilson had two interceptions and the defense racked up 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 this scale has no regression. After he practiced on Friday and Saturday, he said he was confident in his ability to compete and relayed that feeling to his teammates.

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Bengals wide receiver Ja’Mar Chase has been vocal all week that Burrow won’t play unless he’s completely healthy, and Chase reiterated that comment before the game.

“I was like, ‘You’re nuts, boy. I don’t want you playing,'” Chase said. “It shows Joe’s toughness. But he’s a football player, man. You can’t knock him out of being as tough as he is. They don’t make a lot of quarterbacks that tough.”

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

Bengals coach Jack Taylor, the team’s offensive lineman, dialed a fake toss to Burrow, in which he rolled to the right with no coverage. He found a wide-open chase for Cincinnati’s longest play of the season.

Taylor said the decision to expose Burrow like that came from a discussion in the days leading up to the game about whether the two felt comfortable with it. The coach and quarterback had another conversation before the play that eventually set up a field goal.

“I asked him some plays before and he felt good about it,” Taylor said. “It was a quick toss, probably seven steps before he got the bench out of the jammer.”

Bengals don’t need a burrow to move a ton. He must be mobile enough for them. Burrow said he was careful on stretch plays and wasn’t shy about throwing the ball quickly as he tried to get through the game.

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Despite being sacked twice and hit six times, Rams defensive end Aaron Donald recorded two of those hits and Burrow was on the field late in the game.

The signal-caller knows the calf injury can flare up during 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,” Burrow said. “I’ve learned through this process that it can happen at any time.

“It was good to get through it. It means we’ll be stronger this week.”

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