Never mind the calf strain that slowed him for weeks to start the season.
Don’t worry about the bloodied-up index finger on his throwing hand Sunday night — he certainly didn’t.
Joe Burrow is back and so too are his Cincinnati Bengals. Burrow threw for a season-high 348 yards and a pair of touchdowns to propel the Bengals over the Buffalo Bills, 24-18, for Cincinnati’s fourth consecutive win.
In the aftermath of Sunday night’s triumph, the once-hobbled Burrow is now the hottest QB in the NFL. Since Week 5, Burrow is 4-0 with 10 touchdown passes, a 75.8 completion percentage and a 111.2 QB rating — all tops among QBs with three-plus starts in that span, per NFL Research. He expects more of the same exceptional play going forward.
“This is only game eight. We still got nine games left. We’re 5-3 right now, we’re in a great spot,” Burrow said. “Just got to continue to get better.”
Despite the recent histrionics, Burrow downplayed his and his team’s stellar play, along with his banged-up finger. Perhaps it makes sense as the Bengals are back to business as usual following a daunting 1-3 start to the season.
“We were 1-0 this week,” Burrow said. “That’s all that matters. We got to be 1-0 next week, too, so we’re just taking it one day at a time.”
Cliched an approach as it is, it’s worked for the Bengals. It worked when they rebounded from an 0-2 start in 2022 season to repeat as AFC North champions and advance to the AFC Championship Game.
It’s worked so far in 2023 as Burrow played through a calf strain and some ugly play to captain his team to 5-3 with the Bengals now being bandied about as being one of the AFC’s best once again.
“These are the stages they want to be on,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “They don’t shy away from them. That confidence is earned confidence. It’s not anything phony to try to present themselves as if they’re ready for these games. They worked for it, and they trust not only themselves, but their teammates to be next to them making those plays. The team was ready for this environment.”
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Against a bruising San Francisco 49ers squad in Week 8, Burrow truly looked like he was back to form when he tossed a trio of touchdowns to lead the Bengals to a 31-17 upset.
A week later, he was on point from the start against the Bills and generational rival Josh Allen, confirming his performances in recent weeks are again the outstanding norm for Joey Franchise.
Prior to Week 5 and his current red-hot run, Burrow had just two touchdown passes over the team’s dismal 1-3 opening. Now, the narrative has changed in the Queen City and no team, no calf strain and no bloodied finger has been able to slow the Bengals over the last four games.
“It was just a little cut,” said Burrow of the bloodied finger he was dealing with in the first half that was clearly seen on the NBC broadcast. “Nothing bad.”
Nope. It’s all good for the Bengals, who are tied for second in the AFC North behind the front-flying Baltimore Ravens.
Sunday night started with a brilliant opening-drive TD march culminated by a Burrow-to-Irv Smith 7-yard score. Another Burrow TD toss to another tight end, Drew Sample, propelled the Bengals to a 21-7 halftime edge. It was enough for the Bengals to hold off a late-charging Allen and Co.
As the Bills are still looking for answers for their continued uneven play, the Bengals have changed all the questions related to their struggles. Chief among the reasons for the narrative changing is Burrow’s health and play.
In an AFC Divisional Round rematch from a season ago, the Bills were full reminded of Burrow in his vintage form.
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