Burrow ‘locked in’ after turnover-plagued opener

CINCINNATI — Ja’Marr Chase said Sunday he didn’t know what Joe Burrow would be like after the Cincinnati Bengals’ season-opening overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers because he had never seen the quarterback struggle like that.

Burrow threw four interceptions, including a pick-6 on the second offensive snap, and lost a fumble as the Bengals fell behind early. The Bengals climbed back with a better second half, only to fall short in overtime.

On Wednesday, there was no doubt from Chase and others that Burrow would have no trouble bouncing back. The Bengals next travel to play Dallas, whose defense led the league with 26 interceptions last year.

“He’s really locked in this week,” Chase said. “He’ll be himself.”

Burrow had remained in the locker room long after the game, sitting in the chair in front of his cubby still not changed out of his game uniform and seemingly staring into space. Even after most of his teammates had left, Burrow still sat there.

The third-year player said Wednesday he does that all the time, but Sunday was the first time media had seen it because the locker room had not been open during the 2020 and 2021 seasons because of COVID protocols. Burrow did not play in the preseason.

“It’s just what I do,” Burrow said. “Maybe it was a little longer on Sunday than usual. But I do it after practice too.”

Burrow said he runs through plays from the game in his mind when he’s sitting there like that, but didn’t elaborate on the process.

He’s already put Sunday behind him, he said, and is focused on preparing for Dallas – just like he does every week, win or lose.

“We go into every week feeling like we should go out and execute the way we need to do,” Burrow said. “First half, we didn’t do that, but we are going to have a great week of practice and go execute on Sunday.”

Burrow has never thrown more than three interceptions in a game before, something he did in a Week 2 loss at Chicago last year when he produced his previous worst quarterback rating of 66.2. On Sunday, his rating was a 61.7. Even as a rookie he never had a multi-interception performance, though he had one game with two turnovers.

Turnovers were an issue in the first nine games last year. Burrow had 11 interceptions during that span and only three the rest of the regular season, plus two in the playoffs.

Four of Burrow’s turnovers were in the first half Sunday, but he had just the one interception in the second half and put the Bengals in position to win the game when he threw a game-tying touchdown to Chase with two seconds left in regulation. Minkah Fitzpatrick blocked the PAT to send the game to overtime.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said it was encouraging how Burrow responded in the second half but he wasn’t surprised by it.

“However the turnovers come, (it’s important) to be able to refocus on the next play because it can be deflating,” Taylor said. “When a defensive end jumps up to intercept a pass, it’s kinda like, ‘Man, it’s one of those days, really?’ But to quickly put that behind you and regroup and just try to attack the next drive and put points on the board, that’s what’s impressive, that’s what you take from that game. We didn’t do enough to win, but there was a lot of positives of our guys losing the turnover battle five to nothing, but still fighting and believing that we were gonna win no matter what.”

Burrow said he was proud of how he shook off the bad first half and turned things around late in the game, but he didn’t see any commonalities as to why the turnovers kept happening except that he just needs to “take what the defense gives” better.

As for the ability to bounce back, he said it wasn’t difficult.

“I feel like I’ve always kind of been that way,” Burrow said. “Interceptions are gonna happen, you try to limit them as much as you can. But you got to move on. There’s a lot of plays to be had throughout the game.”

The Bengals offense had six drives in the first half, two ending in field goals and the rest turnovers, as Pittsburgh built a 17-6 lead en route to the 23-20 overtime win on Chris Boswell’s field goal as time expired.

Taylor said the focus is on a sharper start Sunday at Dallas.

“We want to score and build leads early because that allows our defense to play a certain style where they can pin their ears back and the other team’s offense becomes a little more predictable,” Taylor said. “Any time we can put up some points early in the game it benefits the entirety of our team. That’s always our goal coming out to score early and often. Let the defense play with a 10-point lead, a 17-point lead, whatever it is. That’s a good style of football to play. Our defense is built for that. ...When we put them in a position to play with a lead they are going to be tough to go against.”

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