It’s only week one…it’s only week one…
Probably would have been nice for Joe Burrow to get a couple preseason reps, huh?
Just three days after the Bengals made Burrow the wealthiest man in NFL history, Burrow’s first game post-payday was a dud. 14 for 31 for a measly 84 yards passing with no touchdowns and no interceptions was the final stat line. Buyer’s remorse (just kidding!).
Burrow will be fine. The soggy conditions of FirstEnergy Stadium didn’t help, but give credit where credit is due: the Cleveland Browns, especially their defense, played with a chip on their shoulder. The Browns dominated the lines of scrimmage, grinding out 206 yards on the ground and sacking Burrow two times. Defensive Player of the Year candidate Myles Garrett was a problem all day, and produced the decisive play by sacking Burrow on fourth down with the Bengals attempting to mount a late…comeback? If you can call it that, I guess…
In all phases of the game, the Browns dominated. The Browns offense wasn’t outstanding by any means (and quarterback Deshaun Watson seemed affected by the elements as well), but they outpaced the Bengals offense by leaps and bounds. The Browns defense allowed 142 yards total. Browns kicker Dustin Hopkins, who was acquired by trade just two weeks ago, nailed all three of his field goal attempts. Bengals kicker Evan McPherson went one for two.
Still, it’s only week one. The Bengals have been in this position before. But their 0 - 2 start last year was in part responsible for missing out on the #1 seed in the AFC come playoff time. With a showdown against the Baltimore Ravens looming next week, the Bengals are going to need to bring a much, much better effort if they're going to avoid that hole once again.
Again, it’s week one. There’s no need for panic. There were even some things to get (a little) excited about:
Joe Mixon looked explosive on some early carries
The defense played tough despite being in unfavorable territory all day
Dax Hill got his first career interception
…and that’s about it. Expensive offseason addition Orlando Brown Jr. was unable to do much to slow down Garrett, and the rest of the offensive line looked sluggish. Procedural penalties put the Bengals in a ton of third and longs early. And the Bengals pass rush was unable to take advantage of the absence of Browns two-time All Pro right tackle Jack Conklin, who was carted off the field in the second quarter.
The biggest concern, though, has to be the lack of connection between Burrow and his receivers. Tee Higgins finished the game without a reception, and with the fourth-year receiver going into free agency after the season, you can be certain that’s not going to sit well with him. Slot receiver Tyler Boyd was invisible for most of the day and while Ja’Marr Chase was by far Burrow’s most reliable target, he did all of his damage close to the line of scrimmage. Burrow’s lack of reps with his receivers was glaring.
What’s that? Oh yeah – it’s week one. The Bengals looked like crap and right now, it stinks. But they’ll rebound. That’s what this team does. They always do.
But for now, give the Browns their props. Their defense was dominant, and the offense did just enough. For the first time since 2004, the Browns are 1 - 0 in week one. It’s safe to say this one probably meant a little more for them than it did the Bengals.
This was a wake-up call. It should surprise no one, but the AFC North – and the AFC in general – is going to be brutal. The Bengals are behind the eight-ball. That’s not how they wanted to start, but given what we know about this team, it’s not how we should expect them to finish.