The Cincinnati Bengals beat the Los Angeles Rams, 19-16, on Monday Night Football in a rematch of the 2022 Super Bowl. Joe Burrow helmed the Cincy offense despite battling a calf injury, which has plagued him since the beginning of training camp in July.
There were rumblings about Burrow potentially missing the game to recuperate, but the former LSU national champion gutted it out. It wasn't his best day on the field — 26-of-49 passes for 259 yards, an interception, and zero touchdowns — but a win is a win, and it was certainly better than trotting out his unproven understudy.
After the game, Burrow spoke plainly about what motivated him to get back on the field in Week 3 after re-aggravating the calf during Cincinnati's Week 2 loss to Baltimore.
"I pride myself on my availability,” Burrow said. “There is risk to go out there and potentially reinjure it. But there’s also risk to go out there and be 0-3."
Cincinnati Bengals' Joe Burrow guts out important win despite injury concerns
Unfortunately, Burrow is making an all-too-common decision here. The NFL harbors a brutal sport. Football, especially at the professional level, is physical. It's hard to stave off injuries at any position. For Burrow, he took a spill at practice in July and was carted off the field. Then, after he missed all of camp, the Bengals hung him out to dry against Myles Garrett and the Cleveland Browns defense in Week 1. He threw for 82 yards, total. Week 2 was a step in the right direction in terms of production, but Burrow only made the injury worse.
The Bengals began the season with high expectations, floated around in the same conversations as Kansas City, Buffalo, and New York as AFC powerhouses. Well, there's your crash course in the devasting powers of injuries. The Jets are diving headlong toward a top-five pick without Aaron Rodgers and the Bengals barely escaped Monday night 1-2, instead of 0-3.
There's still time for Cincy to right the ship, and one has to imagine it will. Burrow signed the most expensive contract in NFL history days before the season. His performance the last few weeks is enough to make Bengals fans queasy, but it's too small a sample size — with too obvious a limiting factor — to get worked up about. Burrow has been a winner his whole life and he's not about to stop. It's a matter of how quickly he can get back to full capacity.
Cincinnati has a winnable stretch of games here (at Tennessee, at Arizona, vs. Seattle) before a bye week and a paramount road battle with the San Francisco 49ers in Week 8. If the Bengals can limp into that game 4-2 or 3-3, there's reason for hope. If the Bengals stumble further in the weeks to come and visit the Bay with a losing record, however, it will be time to worry gravely about the Bengals' season.