Burrow, Bengals seek first win vs. AFC foe

CINCINNATI — Joe Burrow hasn’t put much thought into the fact his Cincinnati Bengals have not yet won a game against an AFC opponent. This week would be a good time get the first.

The Bengals are coming off their best game of the season after collecting a 31-17 win at San Francisco, and are looking for a fourth straight victory Sunday when they host the Buffalo Bills (5-3) in a primetime game at Paycor Stadium.

“The season plays out how it plays out,” Burrow said Wednesday in his weekly press conference. “We would love to be 7-0, but that’s not where we’re at. We just played our best game of the year, and we’re gonna build on it and go from there.”

Cincinnati (4-3) won its final eight games of the regular season last year and had a 10-game winning streak going into the AFC Championship, including a dominant 27-10 victory at Buffalo in a divisional round playoff game.

Burrow also helped lead the Bengals to wins in five of their last seven games going into the 2021 regular-season finale, when most of the starters rested, and Cincinnati is going to need to repeat that late-season success to reach its goals this year.

“You’ve just got to keep it a day at a time,” Burrow said. “I know it sounds cliche, but if you look too far ahead and look too far in the past then you’re gonna lose track of what you’re doing and you just have to keep your nose to the grindstone and get better every day. It’s cliche, but that’s what it is.”

San Francisco was expected to be a tough test on the road. Buffalo at home is another one but perhaps even more significant because of the expectations for both teams as contenders in the AFC.

Burrow said it would be an important step for the team to get its first conference win against a quality opponent like the Bills.

“We’re gonna have to beat teams like this if we’re gonna get where we’re gonna get to,” Burrow said. “It’s a great team with a great quarterback and a really good defense, a team that obviously we played in the playoffs last year and we have a chance to play again, so it’s gonna be a fun one.”

Burrow, now fully healthy, completed 28 of 32 passes Sunday in the win at San Francisco, the running game topped 100 yards for the first time all season, and the defense collected three turnovers.

At one point, Burrow completed 19 straight passes and needed just one more to tie Ken Anderson’s franchise record for most completions in a row. Burrow said he wasn’t even aware he was on such a long streak as it happened.

“We were just playing ball,” Burrow said. “You don’t really think about that. You’re just trying to execute the best you can.”

That performance was a sign Burrow is back, and perhaps even better than ever.

Burrow credited the defense for its ability to step up and close out games as a reason the Bengals have been so good the past two years, but Cincinnati wouldn’t be in positions to win so many games, especially the most significant ones, without a quarterback like him.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said it all starts with Burrow.

“You have to believe in your quarterback,” Taylor said. “He’s touching the ball every single play. He’s the one in the big moments that’s going to have to step up and make plays — allow others to make plays as well. When you got a guy that you believe in like that, that has that magic to him and has a history of winning, there’s a belief on special teams that if we do our job, this guy is gonna lead us to victory. Or on defense ‘if we get the ball back and get a stop, this guy is gonna help us go score.’ And you hate to say this guy because it’s more than about just one guy, but I think we all understand quarterback is a valuable position and you gotta believe in that guy.”

The Bengals believe enough in their own guys they didn’t make any moves ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline but addressed one issue at tight end by signing Tanner Hudson to the active roster off the practice squad. Hudson had been elevated twice on game days this season and proved he could make plays in training camp and throughout the preseason but didn’t make the final cut.

Taylor said he earned the opportunity created when Chase Brown went on injured reserve last week, and Burrow believes adding another pass catcher at tight end could help moving forward.

“He brings an element that is exciting,” Burrow said. “He’s tough, hard working, really good in the pass game, really good pass catcher, good after the catch. He’s gonna bring an element that we’re excited about.”


Bills at Bengals, 8:20 p.m., NBC, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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