CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Burrow made history as the new top money-earner in NFL, then played the worst game of his career so far.
Whether it was the miserable, rainy conditions in Cleveland, a calf injury that wiped out training camp for him, or the distraction of contract negotiations, the Pro Bowl quarterback just wasn't himself. He finished with 82 passing yards — his previous career low was 148 — and never looked comfortable as the Bengals lost 24-3 on Sunday.
Burrow mentioned the lack of reps he got in training camp because of a calf strain that sidelined him for more than a month of the preseason. He didn't get back to practice until Aug. 30 for the Bengals (0-1).
"Those things happen when your quarterback doesn’t perform in training camp,” he said. “That was obviously something I would have liked to have done. But there are no excuses.”
But it was more than that. There were dropped passes, communication errors, penalties and the constant harassment of pass rusher Myles Garrett, the leader of a good Browns defense. Burrow didn't complete a single pass to Tee Higgins, despite targeting the receiver eight times.
“Stuff like this happens," Burrow said. “We’ve been here before.”
Just last season, the Bengals lost their first two games, and Burrow was telling everyone to relax. Cincinnati finished 12-4 and won the AFC North for the second straight season.
“Nobody is panicking here,” he said.
The Bengals defense did a decent job against Deshaun Watson, who had 154 passing yards with a TD and an interception, and Nick Chubb (106 rushing yards). The unit tried to keep Cincinnati in the game under poor weather conditions but got no support from the offense.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The offense had a total of six first downs and was 2 for 15 on third down conversions. The Bengals had 142 total yards and averaged 2.6 yards per play. Ja'Marr Chase was the leading receiver with five catches for just 39 yards. Center Ted Karras cited poor communication among offensive linemen. The Bengals punted on seven first-half possessions. Five were three-and-outs.
“That this certainly isn’t the team that we’re going to be," coach Zac Taylor said. “We all understand that.”
Safety Dax Hill intercepted Watson in the third quarter. ... Linebacker Germaine Pratt had 11 tackles, including a sack. Safety Nick Scott had 11 tackles in his first game with the Bengals.
Burrow is down, but hardly anybody expects he'll stay there. The past couple of weeks have been a rush for him to get healthy enough to play and try to finalize his contract extension before the opener.
1-5 — Burrow's record against the Browns.
The Bengals may not be panicking, but some urgency will be required this week as they prepare to welcome the Baltimore Ravens (1-0) for the home opener on Sunday. The Ravens beat Houston 25-9, but lost running back J.K. Dobbins to a season-ending injury.
AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL