'We kept at it': Bengals pick up a struggling Joe Burrow for a bounce back win over the Raiders
LAS VEGAS –– Since the Cincinnati Bengals drafted quarterback Joe Burrow, the weight of the franchise has rested on Burrow’s shoulders. Whenever the Bengals had won a game over the last two years, it was almost always because the No. 1 pick delivered in the most important spots of the game with a crucial fourth down conversion, a 50-yard pass or a touchdown throw on the run.
Before Sunday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders, the Bengals had never won a game where Burrow struggled.
Burrow played one of his worst games of the season against the Raiders on Sunday and had a career-low 148 passing yards. He forced throws into windows that were too tight, didn’t pick up pressure from the Raiders defense and fumbled the ball on the first drive of the game. In the fourth quarter, Burrow nearly threw an interception in the red zone.
The rest of the Bengals roster picked the quarterback up and led the Bengals to a 32-13 win over the Raiders.
"We kept at it, and we knew exactly what kind of game it was going to be," Burrow said. "It worked out exactly how we thought it would. It was tough from the beginning, and we had to stay patient… That’s exactly how we thought it was going to go."
At the end of the first half, one play after Burrow missed a throw to an open Ja’Marr Chase, Burrow was crushed by two Raiders defensive linemen on a 10-yard sack. Burrow was slow to get up, and he hopped for his first few steps toward the sideline.
In any other game this season, that would have been it for the Bengals hopes of winning.
In Week 1, Burrow made the game-winning throw in overtime against the Minnesota Vikings. In Week 3 and in Week 6, Burrow’s connection with Chase overwhelmed the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Lions’ defenses. In Week 4 and in Week 7, Burrow played a near-perfect half that carried the Bengals to a victory.
Against the Raiders on Sunday, there wasn’t a moment where Burrow snapped into a rhythm and made a game-winning play. This time, the rest of the Bengals roster carried the team across the finish line.
"Every game is going to be played with a different style," Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. "We knew this was a game we were going to have to run the football. (Burrow) just wants to win, and he doesn’t care what it looks like."
When Burrow’s fumble on the first drive was returned to the Bengals 9-yard line, the Bengals defense opened the game with a goal line stop. When the Bengals offense stalled out on the Raiders side of the field, rookie kicker Evan McPherson made three field goals of 50-or-more yards.
When the Bengals needed to use a more conservative game plan to prevent Burrow from getting hit, running back Joe Mixon provided the spark for the entire offense by breaking tackles on runs up the middle. While Burrow finished the game with 148 passing yards, Mixon had two touchdowns, 123 yards in his most important performance of the year.
"We were doing whatever we could to stay with the runs," Mixon said. "We were definitely fortunate enough to wear guys down, and big runs started to come."
The Bengals defense made Raiders quarterback Derek Carr look like a conservative quarterback instead of three-time Pro Bowler.
The Bengals received a boost from players who haven’t been the team’s stars this season. Cornerback Mike Hilton and defensive end Sam Hubbard both made drive-changing tackles. In the fourth quarter, Hubbard added a sack and a fumble recovery. The Bengals secondary, including struggling cornerback Eli Apple, didn’t give Carr room to take a shot down the field.
With 9:07 left in the fourth quarter, the Bengals got the ball with a 16-13 lead. Mixon wore down the Raiders defense and led the Bengals into the red zone with three runs, including a 19-yard pickup when Mixon broke multiple tackles. Later in the drive, backup running back Samaje Perine converted on a 3rd and short run that kept the drive alive.
Burrow saved his most important throw of the game for the final play of the drive. On 3rd and goal, Burrow threw a fade to Chase that gave the Bengals a 22-13 lead. After a pick by Apple on the Raiders next drive, the Bengals improved to 6-4.
"As long as we do what we got to do, I think we're gonna keep this ball rolling," Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd said. "We know what type of opponents that we got coming up. They’re all in that mix, so we know we've got to come to play. It doesn't matter what the records say. We've just got to go out there and focus on us and do what we got to do to win."