Monday Night Football: Bengals grind out first win of the season

CINCINNATI — Joe Burrow might not have been completely healthy, but he did enough to lead the Cincinnati Bengals to their first win of the season despite being limited all week by soreness in his calf.

The fourth-year quarterback was a gameday decision to play eight days after tweaking his previously strained right calf, yet by the second half of Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams, he seemed to find a comfort zone moving out of the pocket and the difference was noticeable on the scoreboard.

Burrow led the Bengals to the first touchdown of the game 40 minutes in, connecting with Ja’Marr Chase up the middle for a 13-yard gain to set up Joe Mixon’s eventual 14-yard scoring run for their first lead. It was one the Bengals wouldn’t relinquish, as they rebounded from back-to-back losses to beat the Rams 19-16 on Monday at Paycor Stadium in front of a sellout crowd of 65,158.

The teams traded field goals, two each, in a defense-dominated first half.

Ironically, Burrow seemed to get more aggressive right after Aaron Donald blasted him on a would-be second sack as Burrow got rid of the ball. He took a moment to get up, but the next play, he found Chase and the offense started rolling for a 13-9 lead with 5:34 left in the third quarter.

Logan Wilson’s second interception of the game gave the offense the ball back quickly, and Burrow took advantage of the momentum swing when he rolled out of the pocket and hit Chase on a deep ball for 43 yards. That was another clear sign the Bengals coaching staff heard Chase’s complaints earlier in the week about not getting the ball enough down the field. Chase finished with 12 catches for 141 yards, on 15 targets.

Cincinnati settled for a 48-yard field goal after Tee Higgins dropped a pass that would have been a first down conversion, but the defense continued to keep the Rams in check and Evan McPherson’s fourth field goal of the day sealed it with 7:13 left. Matthew Stafford threw a touchdown pass to Tutu Atwell with 1:03 left, but the Bengals recovered the onside kick and knelt out the clock.

Burrow finished with 259 yards passing and one fourth-quarter interception, and Mixon had 19 carries for 65 yards and the Bengals’ lone touchdown.

Earlier in the game, Burrow wasn’t looking so confident and Cincinnati seemed fortunate to go into halftime tied at 6. Burrow made throws to the sideline that were uncharacteristically off target, he didn’t move out of the pocket hardly at all and when he was making plays, penalties took a toll.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

A pass interference call on Higgins negated a long pass that would have put the Bengals at the 1-yard line on a drive late in the half after Wilson’s first interception put them in Rams’ territory, trailing 6-3. They ended up back on their own side of the field before punting, but Cincinnati got a quick stop to put the ball back in Burrow’s hands for one last drive, and McPherson nailed a 53-yard field goal to tie the game as time expired to end the half.

The Bengals had been hoping for a fast start when they elected to receive the opening kickoff, but they stalled out in Rams’ territory and McPherson’s 56-yard field goal missed wide left, and Los Angeles took the lead on the ensuing drive.

Fortunately for the offense, Cincinnati’s defense came up with two goal-to-go stops in the first half, limiting the Rams to field goals on those drives, and McPherson tacked on a 49-yarder in between them.

Three false starts impacted two drives for the Bengals offense. They were in a third-and-1 before Joe Mixon and Orlando Brown Jr. flinched on back-to-back plays on the second drive, which resulted in a punt, and Tyler Boyd was gladded for a false start on third-and-6 before a pass to Tanner Hudson fell incomplete, leading to McPherson’s first field goal.

Hudson, elevated from the practice squad with Irv Smith out because of a hamstring injury, had a big catch on the final drive of the half to set up the game-tying kick for McPherson. Fans booed the decision to run down the clock and spike the ball on third down instead of taking a shot at the end zone, but it didn’t end up mattering.

The Rams got a field goal on the first drive of the second half, but they were shut out until that final drive. Stafford was sacked six times and finished with 269 yards passing.

Burrow wasn’t full-go in any practice this week but was “limited” both Friday and Saturday after not participating Thursday. In case of emergency, the Bengals elevated Reid Sinnett from the practice squad to backup Jake Browning, and all three quarterbacks were active. Sinnett had been in training camp with Cincinnati but was released with final cuts and re-signed Friday after the New England Patriots plucked Will Grier for their active roster.


Bengals at Titans, 1 p.m., Fox, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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