Burrow knows Bengals need to put up a lot of points vs. Chiefs

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
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Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Credit: Aaron Doster

Credit: Aaron Doster

As much as the Cincinnati Bengals defense has improved this year, quarterback Joe Burrow is going into this week assuming the offense is going to have to put up a lot of points to beat Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Kansas City brings one of the most explosive offenses in the league to Cincinnati on Sunday, averaging 396.1 yards (third best in the NFL) and 28.3 points per game (fourth best). Mahomes sits just above Burrow on the league’s passing leader list with 4,310 yards and 33 touchdowns, and he’s been tough to beat while leading the Chiefs to appearances in the last two Super Bowls.

“They’ve been one of the best offenses in the league since he has been the starting quarterback,” Burrow said of Mahomes. “We’re going in expecting to have to score a lot of points and we’ll adapt accordingly.”

The Bengals defense could be without starting linebacker Germaine Pratt, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and went on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Pratt has started all 15 games this season. Bengals coach Zac Taylor said “it’s a crap shoot” whether he could clear protocols and be available Sunday, Linebacker Logan Wilson appears closer to a return than it seemed Monday when Taylor called him “highly doubtful.” Taylor said he was feeling stronger in his injured shoulder, and he was going through team drills Wednesday.

Cincinnati’s offense can take some of the pressure of the defense with a performance like Sunday’s 41-21 win over Baltimore when Burrow threw for a franchise-record 525 yards.

However, the Chiefs are better on defense than they were during a 3-4 start to the season when teams were managing 26.7 points per game against them. During the team’s current eight-game winning streak, Kansas City has held opponents to 12.9 points per game and caused 21 turnovers.

“They’re good in all three phases,” Taylor said. “And they’re on quite the streak right now. They’re playing at a high level. They do a great job on offense scoring points and lately, protecting the ball. On defense, they do an excellent job of limiting the opponents’ points and taking the ball away. So, pretty good recipe for success that they have.”

The turnovers are what stand out most to Burrow when watching the Chiefs’ defense, and the second-year quarterback has worked hard to cut down his interceptions during the latter part of the season. He’s gone three straight games without a pick and still is among a group of five quarterbacks with a league-high 14 interceptions. Mahomes has 13.

“I’m being smarter with the football,” Burrow said. “I’m not trying to be a hero on every play. We’ve kind of turned our luck in that situation. Some of the batted balls that turned into interceptions at the beginning of the year have gone the other way, and that’s how the season goes sometimes.”

Being smarter with the football hasn’t meant being less aggressive. Burrow leads the league with 13 touchdown passes of 30 yards or more, and he’s second with 13 passes for more than 40 yards.

Improving his arm strength was a focus for him this offseason, and Burrow said that’s made a big difference in being able to connect on more deep balls. He’s continued to improve in that area as the season has progressed. Burrow had three passes for 50 yards or more Sunday against the Ravens, including a 68-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd.

“Our offensive line is playing a lot better,” Burrow said. “They’re giving me more time in the pocket. We drafted this guy named Ja’Marr Chase that is really good down the field. And Tee Higgins has become one of the premier 50-50 ball catchers in the league. Then you have TB that’s gotten a lot better at running after the catch and working the middle of the field. We’re pretty explosive right now. We’ve just got to maintain this momentum that we have.”

Burrow said the chance to do it against competition like Kansas City is something he looks forward to, but the opportunity to clinch is the main focus.

“I think whoever was lining up across from us this week, we’re going to be excited to play,” Burrow said. “This is a big opportunity, whether it’s the Chiefs or whoever they throw out there against us. We’ve got an opportunity to go out there and win and win our division and make the playoffs. We’re playing a really good team that’s been in the Super Bowl the last two years, so it’s a big opportunity in that sense. But it’s a bigger opportunity for ourselves as far as the division is concerned.”

SUNDAY’S GAME

Chiefs at Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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