CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow knows he might come across as arrogant when he makes comments like Sunday’s statement the championship window will be open his whole career.
But he learned a long time ago to be a successful quarterback he needed a little bit of that swagger.
The confidence Burrow displays in his press conferences and even just walking into the stadium on game days is the same mentality he brings on the field. He believes in himself and his team as Cincinnati heads into the playoffs, starting with the Sunday night Wild Card matchup against the Baltimore Ravens at Paycor Stadium.
Burrow expects the Bengals to be competing for a championship just like last year.
“That’s why you prepare and that’s why you practice all week, and I think you have to have that mindset as a quarterback in this league if you want to be really successful,” Burrow said. “You can’t go out there scared in the moment. You have to be a little arrogant to go out there in that moment and make plays you need to make and so that’s really something I’ve thought a lot about and something that I try to do.”
“I’m really confident in my work and my preparation,” he added. “I’m confident in the guys around me too and my coaches as well. When you have confidence in just about everything you do, it makes life a lot easier on Sundays.”
Burrow said he plays his best when the game or season is on the line, and he makes his best plays when the pressure is high.
He should feel even more comfortable going into this postseason after taking 10 fewer sacks in 16 games this season, compared to the same number of regular-season games last year. Even with two changes on the offensive line because of late-season injuries to right guard Alex Cappa and right tackle La’el Collins, Burrow remains confident he can avoid some of the pressure that impacted him in the playoffs last year, particularly in the Super Bowl when he was sacked seven times.
Game management and reading situations is the area he thinks he has improved the most since last year, and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan would agree.
“He’s been fantastic,” Callahan said. “… Once we got through the first couple weeks of when and where is an acceptable time to take a sack. He’s got such a great feel for the pocket. There’s a couple that even (Sunday) you say, ‘Oh God, don’t do that,’ ‘Oh, great play, way to go.’ He navigates it so well. You sort of let his instincts take over some times. You just try to point out situations where a sack is probably not good here on a first-and-10. You want to extend the play on third- and-12, so be it, extend it. I think it’s just a balance of him understanding and growing and maturing through that process of when it is OK to be aggressive and when you should pull back the reins on being aggressive. At the end of the day, we always are going to defer to his instincts and his ability and it’s usually going to work out pretty good.”
Burrow wasn’t at his best Sunday in the regular-season finale against Baltimore, and the offense hasn’t closed out the last two games well after having big leads, but the third-year quarterback isn’t concerned.
The Bengals have found ways to win all season, and the current eight-game winning streak is the longest in franchise history, matching the 8-0 start the team experienced in 2015. Burrow said it goes back to being confident.
“You feel unbeatable all the time then sometimes you get humbled a little bit,” Burrow said. “That’s life in the NFL. You have ups and downs, it’s about how steady you stay through that and we have guys who really maintain level heads throughout the entire year no matter what’s going on.”
Asked if he’s starting to flash back to this time last year, Burrow said he would be lying if he said he wasn’t, but the Bengals understand there are different challenges ahead. The experience was helpful for the team, and after learning more about maintaining his body through the long 2022 season, he feels about as good as he could going into Sunday.
“It’s do or die,” Burrow said. “It’s where you like to be. In those moments is where I kind of make my best plays. It’s where I’m comfortable and these moments are moments that you remember. You don’t always Week 6 games on the road. You remember these playoff games, these home night playoff games. We’re excited, I know the fans will come out ready to go. That atmosphere on that Monday night game that we didn’t unfortunately end up playing, that was the best atmosphere pregame that I’ve ever been apart of. We are going to need that again on Sunday.”
Ravens at Bengals, 8:15 p.m., NBC, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7
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