The Cincinnati Bengals had been eyeing last week’s bye as an opportunity to bring Pro Bowl quarterback Joe Burrow back to full health, and it appears that a week of rest has him nearly back to peak condition for Sunday’s game (scheduled for 4:25 p.m. on Cincinnati’s Local 12) against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
After a week of rest, Burrow is confident he is approaching 100% as they gear up to face the 49ers. He emphasized that his offense will maintain an aggressive approach, particularly on crucial plays in the red zone and on third down, which often necessitate him extending plays with his mobility.
Burrow mentioned, “When you’re under pressure in those situations, you need to be capable of extending plays and making things happen. I’ve been able to do that more in recent weeks. Before that, not so much. I’m excited to get back to making plays outside the pocket and running for first downs. That’s the style I prefer, and it’s how we intend to play moving forward.”
During the bye week, Burrow revealed that he essentially did “absolutely nothing” and embraced the opportunity to recharge. He felt remarkably healthy after the previous week, and the extra week off allowed him to reach 100% physical condition.
He stated, “I spent my time on the couch, watched football, ate, and did some lifting. It was a good week. This year’s bye came a bit earlier, so my body and mind felt different compared to past bye weeks. I was more focused on football during this bye week than I have been in the past.”
Burrow’s performance in the last two games was notably improved compared to the first month of the season. With passer ratings of 108 and 88 in recent games, he expressed his desire to enhance every aspect of his play and to bring his current passer rating of 79.8 closer to his career average of 97.7.
He mentioned, “You always watch other teams across the league to see what’s working and what isn’t during the bye week. You review your own performance and contemplate mechanics and numerous other aspects.”
Burrow is optimistic about his mobility, a key element in critical situations such as third down and the red zone, which will be pivotal, particularly in the upcoming game against the 49ers, as they are ranked highly in both of these categories.
Burrow explained, “That’s what third down and the red zone are all about. You can devise plays, but opposing defenses are skilled at disrupting your plans.”
Center Ted Karras expressed his confidence in Burrow’s readiness and toughness, given the quarterback’s early-season injury and his resilience as he returned to play.
Karras remarked, “I’m not closely monitoring Joe, but he looks quite good. We had a solid practice today. What stands out from the early part of the season is that everyone recognizes how tough Joe is. He displayed it by going out there despite his injuries because he understands that our collective success depends on him. It’s a team effort, but it hinges on his success. For him to show that level of commitment early in the season, he’s a special individual.”
There is also a shift in the Bengals’ offensive strategy, with offensive coordinator Brian Callahan indicating that, now that Burrow is healthier, they plan to use more under-center formations in short-yardage and goal-line situations. This change follows three unsuccessful attempts in the last two victories when they needed just a yard to gain. According to data from fantasypoints.com, last season, when Burrow was under center for similar plays, they had a 44% touchdown rate, while all of running back Joe Mixon’s runs inside the opponents’ 5-yard line this season were from the shotgun formation, with a 20% touchdown rate. Burrow disagreed with the notion that the shotgun formation tips off defenses, suggesting that it merely requires a different approach to blocking.
Some other notes: Burrow has been in touch with his friend, 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa, but trash talking hasn’t started yet. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor mentioned that left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who is recovering from a groin injury, is ahead of schedule and participated in a limited capacity in Wednesday’s practice. Akeem Davis-Gaither, a backup linebacker, was the only player who didn’t practice due to a knee issue. Wide receiver Tee Higgins, recovering from a rib injury, was not on the injury report, indicating full participation in practice. Finally, with 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy in concussion protocol and Sam Darnold as the next opponent, it’s noted that Taylor secured his first NFL head coaching win in the Bengals’ 2019 game against Darnold’s Jets, where they held New York to two field goals and Darnold to 239 yards on 28 of 48 passing.”