Heading into the Cincinnati Bengals' Week 3 matchup in Pittsburgh against the Steelers, quarterback Joe Burrow was missing something.
And with one eight-yard quarterback draw play he checked into in the third quarter, he found what he was looking for – confidence in his leg.
“It was exciting because coming into this season I didn't know if I would be able to do that today and so that's exciting for me,” Burrow said. “I feel confident in myself to make that check. It’s exciting for me to feel that way and feel confidence in my leg.”
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Prior to tearing his ACL and MCL 10 games into his rookie season, Burrow’s ability to extend plays and use his mobility was a big part of what made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He did it so easily and often before his injury that when he wasn’t moving around in the pocket like he used to in the first two games, questions started to arise from everywhere.
Is Joe Burrow comfortable in the pocket? When will he be confident enough in his leg to make the plays with his legs that he did before? Will he ever be the same Joe Burrow again?
From the end of July when training camp started through Sunday, Burrow and head coach Zac Taylor answered those kinds of questions on a weekly basis. They intensified after the Bengals Week 2 loss to the Bears after he was sacked four times and hit nine times.
Burrow, much like any other person who suffers a gruesome injury, needed time to feel like himself again. He recovered so quickly it’s almost as if the world forgot he’s not even a year removed from his surgery.
But that’s who Burrow is. He makes the impossible look easy at times.
“Some people find this hard to believe, but Joe is human,” Taylor said. “Sometimes he needs to see it, feel it for himself in a real game to know that 'Hey, the things I used to be capable of, I can still do.'”
After rushing for eight yards on the play to get a first down for the offense, the ensuing play he threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
The score extended the Bengals’ lead to 24-7 and put the game out of a reach. It was an important drive for Cincinnati to win the game and for Burrow’s mindset.
It wasn’t just Burrow who felt his confidence exuding on the field. As Burrow made the check at the line of scrimmage and took off running for the first down, running back Joe Mixon beamed with excitement.
“When he dove and got the first down and got up and dropped the ball, I was like, ‘Ok, that’s what I like to see.’ “That’s my quarterback right there.”
The moment was huge for everyone involved because as the Bengals saw in 2020 when Burrow was not in the lineup, the team goes as he goes. Mixon knows that too.
While the Bengals are 2-1 and head into Thursday night’s game at Paul Brown Stadium against the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) as the favorite, they believe they can play much better on offense. Wide receiver Tyler Boyd and Mixon said as much on Monday. With Burrow’s confidence on the rise and the Bengals’ defense playing as top-10 unit, there’s real belief among the players in Cincinnati’s locker room they can contend in the AFC.
“He got his swag back and that’s what I like to see,” Mixon said.