In case anyone forgot, Sunday was a reminder of what a 100-percent healthy Joe Burrow looks like as he turned in one of the most impressive games of his career to lead the Cincinnati Bengals to a 31-17 upset of the San Francisco 49ers.
Burrow completed 28 of 32 passes, including 19 in a row in the first half, for 283 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 43 slide-free yards to dissect one of the best defenses in the league.
“Nice day at the ol’ office,” Burrow said on the postgame radio show before proclaiming himself fully healed from the calf injury he suffered July 27, as if his play hadn’t already broken that news.
“It’s feeling really good,” he added. “It felt pretty much back to normal. It was nice to get back to moving again, making plays for my team.”
How Joe Burrow Upped His Game in San Francisco
Buoyed not only by full health after a week off for the bye, Burrow also benefited from a new wrinkle in the scheme, one the Bengals had planned to unveil earlier but had to shelve when he injured his calf in training camp.
After taking an NFL-low 16 snaps from under center through the first six games, the Bengals did it on four of 10 plays on the game-opening touchdown drive and on four of six on their next possession, which also ended in a touchdown.
“We’re the team to beat.”
The #Bengals are flying home from San Francisco with an infusion of confidence after an impressive 31-17 dismantling of one of the league’s top defenses.
— Jay Morrison (@ByJayMorrison) October 30, 2023
That opened the run game for Joe Mixon’s season-high 87 yards and the team’s season-high 134, which created opportunities from the play-action game. That, coupled with Burrow’s incredible accuracy, left the 49ers defense helpless.
“We got some big play-action shots off of that,” Burrow said. “We got great production off of that. So that’s gonna continue to be a big part of what we do.”
Burrow’s 19 consecutive completions were one shy of the team record Ken Anderson set Jan. 3, 1983, against the Oilers. And Burrow’s 87.5% completion rate came in just under Anderson’s franchise record of 90.9% set on Nov. 10, 1974, when he completed 20 of 22 passes against the Steelers.
MORE: Cincinnati Bengals Depth Chart
“You don’t even know that that’s happening,” head coach Zac Taylor said. “You just feel the rhythm of the offense. He just does it so often that you don’t even really appreciate it in the moment. When you hear those stats, you appreciate that. What also goes into that is outstanding protection, to where he can trust what he needs to do and the receivers doing what they need to do to win, and that’s what they did today.”
Of the 28 completions, his second might have been the most impressive when, on the second snap of the game, Burrow moved around in the pocket for 10-11 seconds, spun out of three sack attempts, rolled right, and hit Tee Higgins for an eight-yard gain just as he took a shot from another San Francisco defender.
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) October 29, 2023
“I don’t use that word ‘unbelievable’ anymore,” Taylor said. “I’m joking because that’s just what you come to expect. I’ve learned to just keep my mouth shut and not say anything, not think anything negative while he’s back there in the pocket moving around.”
It wasn’t just what Burrow did inside the pocket, but what he did when he left it. With the 49ers having to contend with an improved run game and elite receivers on the outside, they played a lot of man coverage, and Burrow exploited it with accurate throws and an aggressive mindset, and he came within four rushing yards of setting a career-high.”
“That’s really what I worked on for the most part of the offseason, was my athleticism and my speed,” he said. “I just haven’t been able to show it really. So it was nice to see that work pay off.”
Burrow got every yard he could out of the scrambles and designed draws, refusing to slide, even when linebacker Fred Warner was bearing down on him. On one play, Burrow took the shot, popped back up, and went back to the huddle.
Taylor explained what he saw from a coaching standpoint:
“For a quarterback to understand ‘what’s the best thing to beat that coverage’ is critical because they’ve got you outnumbered,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t have a great advantage in the pass game based on the coverage they play, and for Joe to use his feet and know that’s the way to win, man, that’s big time.”
Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase described it from a player’s view:
“I actually made a comment when he made that play: ‘Damn, that’s one tough mother f—-r.’”
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