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Down by three late in the fourth, the 2020 NFL draft’s No. 1 overall pick led the Bengals on a 14-play, 69-yard drive. He got Cincinnati all the way to the 3-yard line and found A.J. Green for a touchdown, but the wideout was called for a push-off on Bolts cornerback Casey Hayward.
After the offensive pass interference penalty, Bengals kicker Randy Bullock trotted onto the field for a game-tying 31-yard field goal attempt with seven seconds left, but he missed wide right. Bullock appeared to injure himself during the try and limped off the field.
The Bolts then knelt on the ball and escaped with the win.
Burrow scored the Bengals’ only touchdown on a 23-yard quarterback draw in the first quarter. Chargers running back Joshua Kelley ran into the end zone from five yards out in the fourth for the Bolts’ only TD.
That touchdown helped the Chargers outscore the Bengals 10-0 in the fourth en route to the season-opening win.
Bengals QB Joe Burrow: 23-of-36, 193 passing yards, 0 TD, 1 INT; 8 carries, 46 rushing yards, 1 TD
Bengals RB Joe Mixon: 19 carries, 69 rushing yards; 1 reception, 2 receiving yards
Bengals WR A.J. Green: 5 receptions, 51 receiving yards
Chargers QB Tyrod Taylor: 16-of-30, 208 passing yards; 6 carries, 7 rushing yards
Chargers RB Austin Ekeler: 19 carries, 84 rushing yards; 1 reception, 3 receiving yards
Chargers RB Joshua Kelley: 12 carries, 60 rushing yards, 1 TD
Burrow Shows Promise in Debut
Bengals fans have endured many disappointments throughout the team’s 53-year history, to the point that hearing about moral victories might ring hollow, especially after the team suffered a painful season-opening loss off a called-back touchdown and ensuing missed chip-shot field goal.
But as ESPN’s Mina Kimes wrote, the Bengals clearly have someone special in Burrow:
Burrow’s pedestrian passing stats won’t wow anyone as he finished 23-of-36 for 193 yards and an interception. But he performed well enough on the ground in the first quarter and down the stretch in the fourth to give Bengals fans reason to be excited.
Burrow showcased his speed on a designed quarterback draw in the first quarter that led to a 23-yard touchdown rush for the Bengals’ first score of the season:
Overall, Burrow finished with 46 rushing yards on eight carries. He isn’t about to morph into Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and turn in a 1,000-yard season, but the Bengals signal-caller is mobile enough to give opposing defenses something to think about.
It was largely a struggle otherwise for Burrow and the Bengals as they managed just two field goals for the rest of the game. Burrow only threw for 5.4 yards per pass attempt as Cincinnati couldn’t get much going. He also launched an overthrown ball to a wide-open Green in the end zone, forcing the Bengals to settle for a field goal.
However, that all changed on the final drive as the rookie worked some magic and got his team into striking distance.
Starting at his own 18-yard line with three minutes remaining, Burrow led the Bengals all the way to the 3-yard line by going 8-of-10 for 70 passing yards in addition to a seven-yard rush. The Bengals offense hummed as the team only faced a third down once, and that was met with a 10-yard completion from Burrow to Tyler Boyd to move the chains.
The drive ended in dramatic fashion with the touchdown that wasn’t and the field goal that went wide right, but Green was clearly impressed with his new quarterback postgame, per ESPN’s Ben Baby:
Burrow, however, gave himself a “D” for his performance:
But the future is bright for Burrow and the Bengals, with ex-Pittsburgh Steelers safety and current ESPN analyst Ryan Clark, as well as Jordan Reid of the Draft Network, offering compliments:
Burrow needs to put this game behind him quickly as the Bengals are slated to face the Cleveland Browns in just four days to kick off Week 2.
Chargers Defense Propels Los Angeles to Win
An ugly game that featured only two touchdowns was largely the result of a phenomenal performance from the Bolts defense, led by Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram III, Jerry Tillery and Casey Hayward Jr.
Bosa, who had three quarterback hits, two tackles for loss, a sack and five tackles, provided the energy for the Bolts.
Ingram only had two tackles and one pass breakup on the books, but his fourth-quarter interception with the Bengals in field-goal range and down 16-13 helped L.A. hold off Cincinnati before the game’s final drive:
Tillery had two tackles, two quarterback hits and a sack, and the second-year pro’s efforts drew praise from teammates postgame:
And Hayward was everywhere Sunday, amassing a game-high 12 tackles and managing two pass breakups.
Overall, the Bengals gained just 295 yards from scrimmage and committed two turnovers to the Chargers’ zero. Star Bengals running back Joe Mixon gained just 3.6 yards per carry, and the Bolts held wideouts Green and Boyd to a combined nine catches and 84 yards.
It’s an encouraging start for a Chargers team that finished last year ranked 25th in defensive efficiency, per Football Outsiders.
The Bolts will need defensive performances like that to hang in the AFC West, which features the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and a Las Vegas Raiders team that just hung 34 points on the Carolina Panthers, thanks in part to three Josh Jacobs touchdowns. The Denver Broncos offense, featuring potential star signal-caller Drew Lock and a promising young receiving corps, could be tough, as well.
For now, L.A. passed its first test as it now moves on to face Kansas City.
The Chargers will host the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET. Cincinnati will visit the Cleveland Browns on Thursday at 8:20 p.m.