Bengals, Burrow face challenge against NFL’s top-ranked pass defense

Colts have a league-high nine interceptions

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals couldn’t handle Baltimore’s blitz-heavy defense, and now opponents have a blueprint for how to stop Joe Burrow.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said the team has to be prepared for more blitzing moving forward, even going into Sunday’s game against an Indianapolis Colts team that isn’t known for that style of defense.

The Ravens sacked Burrow seven times and held him to a season-low 183 yards passing with just 30 attempts and a quarterback rating of 66.4.

“You always have to prepare for everything,” Taylor said. “You go over two years watching tape of the other team. (Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus) is certainly capable of bringing some good stuff. It’s our job to be ready and be prepared for everything.”

Burrow said his “eyes weren’t great on Sunday,” and when teams are blitzing like the Ravens did, he needs to get rid of the ball quicker. Better pass protection could help as well, but there have never been as many free runners as what Burrow faced Sunday from Baltimore.

Indianapolis might not need to change its game plan to be successful, though.

The Colts bring the No. 1 pass defense to the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, and they allow just 17.6 points per game, which ranks second behind only the Ravens. They have a league-best nine interceptions.

“It’s all three levels with them,” Taylor said. “It’s the front being so disciplined against the run. The front and the back, there’s even the corners and safeties in the run game. These games are really dialed in on the concepts. They’re just very sound with their fundamentals. They don’t overly complicate things. They pair things nicely together. It’s just a really, really solid defense.”

Burrow has thrown three interceptions through five games and still is trying to look for opportunities to hit the deep ball, as he’s mainly relied on intermediate and short-range passes. He hasn’t found the chemistry with wide receiver A.J. Green yet, and now Auden Tate is day-to-day with a shoulder injury, according to Taylor. Green left Sunday’s game with a hamstring issue and sat out from practice Wednesday, like some of the veterans often do, but he is expected to return Thursday.

Regardless of who is available, the Colts are going to be tough to throw against. They go about getting interceptions just about every way possible. Cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie each have two picks, and strong safety Khari Willis, cornerback Kenny Moore and middle linebackers Anthony Walker and Bobby Okereke all have one.

“They do a great job of understanding their defense and the weaknesses of their defense,” Burrow said. “Every coverage has a weakness, and it is usually finding the one on one and utilizing that leverage to find grass on the field and each individual player does a great job of understanding the weakness of the defense and changing how they play individual coverage based off each collective coverage. Example of that was the Ravens last week. I threw a post over the top and they were playing quarters coverage. And that’s what you want to do against quarters but the corner played inside leverage and on top because he knew the weakness of that defense was throwing the post over the top. So, great defenses do that.”

Burrow said he is ready to move on from Sunday’s game.

An encouraging text from Archie Manning helped ease his mind a bit about his performance, as well. Burrow has gotten close with the Manning family and keeps in touch with both Archie and Peyton Manning.

“That family is a great family,” Burrow said. “Archie texts me every week, win or lose. You know last week he texts me ‘head up.’ He told me that Eli his rookie year played the Ravens and he a 0.00 QBR. Archie texts me every week and that means a lot to not only me but my family as well.”

Burrow didn’t want to share specifics about what he saw on the film from Sunday after going back through it, but he said it was a good learning experience for him, as well as the rest of the team.

“The mindset we had after the game I thought was positive,” Burrow said. “Nobody was panicking. Obviously, we were frustrated with our play but there was nobody hanging their heads or throwing in the towel. We were ready to get back to work.”

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