Burrow fights through injury to avoid 0-3: 'I pride myself on my availability'
CINCINNATI (AP) — After missing most of training camp with a calf injury, Joe Burrow is still working his way back into form.
Monday night’s 19-16 win over the Rams, the first by the Cincinnati Bengals this season, went a long way.
The Pro Bowl quarterback shook off the lingering effects of the right calf strain that kept his status in doubt right up until game time. He wasn't quite as mobile as usual and didn't record a touchdown pass — but he managed to help the Bengals (1-2) get up off the canvas.
“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.”
Burrow finished 26 for 49 for a season-high 259 yards and also threw his second interception this season. His favorite target, Ja’Marr Chase, broke out with 12 catches for 141 yards, although nine different Bengals were recipients of Burrow's passes during the evening.
Chase's longest catch was a 43-yarder that came during a third-quarter drive that led to the third of four field goals by Evan McPherson.
Burrow told Chase during pregame warmup that he was going to play.
“I didn’t want him to play," Chase said. "It just shows that Joe is hard-headed. But he’s a football player. It takes a lot to be a quarterback and also be injured.
“We needed to get this win,” Chase said. "I was just being there for Joe. All I could do is try to make Joe look good.”
Joe Mixon's 14-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave the reigning AFC North champs their first lead of the season. Meanwhile, linebacker Logan Wilson picked off Los Angeles quarterback Matthew Stafford twice and the Bengals sacked him six times.
Stafford threw a 1-yard scoring pass to Tutu Atwell with just over a minute left in the game, and the PAT got the Rams within three points, but Mitchell Wilcox fell on the ensuing onside kick to seal the win for the Bengals.
It wasn’t clear until just before the game whether Burrow would play. The injury occurred early in training camp, and he aggravated it late in the Bengals’ loss to Baltimore last week. Burrow returned to practice on Thursday on a limited basis, and on Saturday the team listed him as questionable.
“In the workout today, (I) felt good enough to play,” Burrow said. “Don’t have any setbacks, was basically the criteria. It’s still day to day. It’s good to get through this one. It’s going to be better this week than it was last week.”
The Cincinnati defense was outstanding. Stafford was sacked twice by defensive end Trey Hendrickson, and Wilson intercepted him once in each half, the second two-interception game of the fourth-year linebacker's career.
“Our defense kept us right in this thing," Bengals coach Zac Taylor said.
Stafford finished 18 for 39 for 269 yards as the Rams slipped to 1-2. Puka Nacua — whose 25 receptions for 266 yards in his first two games was a rookie record — led the Rams with five catches for 72 yards.
Mixon was a workhorse again, carrying 19 times for 65 yards. On Cincinnati's first possession of the second half, he went over left tackle and found a seam to score from 14 yards out, his first TD of the season, to cap a 10-play, 75-yard drive.
“It did feel like we were in striking distance,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. "I thought the defense kept us in the game the whole night, and I thought it was really unfortunate, especially early on where we had to settle for field goals where we had some of the looks and some of the opportunities to be able to execute, and we just weren’t able to get it done.”
RING OF HONOR
Former quarterback Boomer Esiason and receiver Chad Johnson were inducted into the Bengals Ring of Honor at halftime.
Esiason played for the Bengals in 1984-92 and then again for a final season in 1997. He was elected to the Pro Bowl three times and was the NFL MVP in 1988.
Johnson, who was officially known as Chad Ochocinco from 2008-11, played in Cincinnati for 10 seasons and was elected to six Pro Bowls. He’s still the team’s all-time leader in receptions (751), receiving yards (10,783) and receiving TDs (66).
Rams: OL Alaric Jackson left late in the first half with a thigh injury and didn't return. ... OL Joe Noteboom (knee) went out in the third quarter and didn't return.
Rams: At Indianapolis (2-1) on Sunday.
Bengals: Plays Sunday at Tennessee (1-2).