On a designed quarterback run, Joe Burrow took matters into his own hands. Breaking upfield and grabbing a block from Trey Hopkins, the rookie from LSU blew past defenders before crossing the goal line for a 23-yard touchdown. Burrow’s score not only gave the Cincinnati Bengals a 7-0 lead but also new hope to the long-frustrated franchise. That hope is key for Bengals fans as we embark on the 2020 season, but what were the other key takeaways as the Bengals hosted the Chargers in Week 1.
In an overall sloppy game, it was the Bengals’ minor miscues which eventually led to a 16-13 loss to the Chargers. While there were flashes of greatness, there are still concerns that need to be addressed before the Week 2 showdown against the in-state rival Cleveland Browns. While it was perhaps not the worst loss, the takeaways from this game could be an early sign of what is to come in the Jungle this season.
Bengals vs. Chargers: Key Takeaways from Week 1
A two-minute drill demonstrates Burrow’s potential
Rookie quarterbacks against the clock is usually a terrible combination. Then again, is Burrow your average rookie? One would think after an early missed shovel pass led to a Melvin Ingram interception, it would be understandable for Burrow to struggle. Instead, it was just another drive for Burrow, as he put the mistake to the back of his mind.
In the team’s final drive, the Bengals’ hopes for Burrow were almost realized. Poised in the pocket, the young gun would command a 14-play drive into the red zone. If not for an offensive pass interference penalty on A.J. Green, Cincinnati would be sitting at 1-0 coming out of Week 1. Unfortunately, all the hard work was null and void.
However, it is important that Burrow had rebounded after two rough drives to then end the night on a positive personally. Going 7-of-9 for 70 yards, it looked like a veteran was calling the shots instead of a kid in his first game. Sure, there will be growing pains, but Burrow can hold his head high going in next Thursday — and perhaps, so could this version of the Bengals’ offense.
The Bengals will be looking at OT in April’s 2021 Draft
After 30 minutes in his first NFL game, Burrow had already been sacked three times. Throw in six quarterback hits, and one can already see that the No.1 pick will be in for a long season under center. Jonah Williams may draw a pass in his first NFL start, but there are little excuses for Bobby Hart at this point.
On third-and-12 in the second quarter, Hart completely whiffed on a block against Joey Bosa head-on. Poor hand placement led to domination from the Chargers’ defensive end, resulting in Burrow getting sandwiched for a three-yard loss. Two plays before, Hart had been called for a false start.
Burrow’s average time per pass attempt was 2.21 seconds, the shortest among quarterbacks in Week 1. Williams will have time to adapt and eventually either stand pat at left tackle or move over to the right side. Hart proved in one half that the team’s priority in 2021 is going to be addressing the offensive line. If the team stumbles towards a top-five pick, recently declared Penei Sewell from Oregon could be the answer as the team’s bookend.
No matter what happens this season, Hart cannot be the long-term answer at right tackle. Three drives were enough for fans to fear for Burrow’s safety against the Chargers’ front seven.
The referees also missed the preseason
Mike Williams is a standout receiver for the Chargers offense and has been since his sophomore season in 2018. With 8:38 in the second quarter, Taylor connected with the fourth-year pro down the sideline for a 37-yard gain. The problem was not the busted coverage from Darius Phillips, but rather the referee’s decision to call an unnecessary roughness penalty on safety Jessie Bates III.
Bates, roaming deep, delivered a strike leading with the shoulder. Williams, who lowered his head, collided shoulders with the third-year safety as the play should have been ruled dead. Instead, the call remained, tacking on nine yards to the play and setting the Chargers up in the red zone. The Bengals would stand firm, as the Chargers would settle for a 24-yard field goal from Michael Badgley.
Credit to the Bengals’ front seven to the Chargers to 13 total yards and only three points, but what would have happened if the call was correct? It meant that the pass interference penalty called on the Chargers in the following plays would have put them back to Cincinnati’s 28 as opposed to the 19, potentially putting more pressure on a longer kick. That blown call cost the Bengals’ a chance to end the drive on a positive light by potentially putting pressure on that could have led to a missed kick.
Ultimately, it was the difference-maker in heading to overtime or heading to the locker room with a loss two quarters later.