ANALYSIS: Burrow injured again, other takeaways from Bengals’ loss to Ravens

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The Cincinnati Bengals haven’t been able to keep Joe Burrow healthy long enough to make any serious noise this season, and the latest blow could cost them a shot at a third AFC North title.

Burrow injured his right wrist on a touchdown drive in the second quarter of a 34-20 loss at Baltimore on Thursday, and he finished the game on the sideline while Jake Browning got the first meaningful snaps of his NFL career.

There was no hero moment for Browning this particular night, and the Ravens dealt their own blows to Cincinnati, taking control of the game on the two drives after the injury with a pair of touchdowns in the final three minutes of the half. Baltimore never trailed after that, improving to 8-3 while the Bengals drop to 5-5.

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

1. Burrow’s status unclear

Burrow couldn’t grip the football when he attempted twice to toss on the sideline after emerging from the medical tent. He had X-rays during halftime and was declared out as the second half was beginning.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said in his postgame press conference that it looked like Burrow sprained his wrist, and he wasn’t aware of any pre-existing issues with that hand going into the game.

Burrow had opened the season with a calf injury and had been playing his best ball in the two games after the Week 7 bye, but now the Bengals have lost two straight and could be relying on a backup that has never started an NFL game going into another critical AFC North matchup against Pittsburgh.

Browning won the backup job over Trevor Siemian during training camp and made his NFL debut at the end of a blowout loss to Cleveland in the opener when he played four offensive snaps. On Thursday, after being thrown into the fire, he completed 8 of 14 passes for 68 yards in two-plus quarters of action, adding 40 yards rushing on four carries.

The Bengals have 10 days to prepare a new starting quarterback or get Burrow healthy enough to return.

2. Explosive plays, missed tackles

Cincinnati’s defense had a good stretch after a poor start led to a touchdown the opening drive, but Baltimore just ended up exposing the same weaknesses that showed up Sunday against Houston with missed tackles and explosive plays.

The Ravens had seven plays of 20-plus yards, including a 51-yard pass from Lamar Jackson to Odell Beckham Jr. in the fourth quarter. His 37-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor with 2:20 left in the second quarter gave Baltimore the lead for good at 14-10, and the Ravens tacked on another one before halftime to add some cushion.

Penalties also hurt. A defensive pass interference call on Chidobe Awuzie on a third-down incompletion extended that second scoring drive before another DPI on DJ Turner helped move the Ravens 28 yards forward to the Cincinnati 34-yard line.

Jackson finished with 264 yards passing and two touchdowns, and he added 54 yards rushing on nine carries. Beckham, who left the game late with a shoulder injury, had 116 yards on four catches.

Thursday’s game marked the first time Cincinnati had allowed 34 points or more since Week 13 of the 2021 season, against the L.A. Chargers.

3. Run defense still struggling

The concerns on offense are mostly injury related, but the defense had its share of injuries impacting play Thursday as well.

Sam Hubbard’s absence the past two games because of ankle injuries seemed to expose Cincinnati to more issues in the run defense, after the Bengals had been showing improvement in that area since the bye. Baltimore has the best rushing offense in the league, and Cincinnati was no match for that, especially without its best edge defender in the run game.

On top of Jackson’s 54 yards rushing, Gus Edwards had 62 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries, including a long of 26 yards, and Baltimore finished with 157 yards on 31 carries. It was the fifth time this season the Bengals have allowed more than 150 yards rushing in a game. This was a top 5 run defense in 2022.

Cam Sample got the start at left defensive end with Hubbard out and finished with three tackles, while Myles Murphy had two. The Bengals also lost cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt for the entire second half after he exited with a quad injury.

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