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CINCINNATI – “Joe knows better than anyone. It’s a saying the Cincinnati Bengals have come to appreciate.
The Bengals’ successes revolve around quarterback Joe Burrow’s ability to assimilate and act, complete passes in tight spaces, work around his team’s shortcomings and turn abortive plays into first downs.
Meanwhile, the Bengals ground offense has become a bit of a sideline compared to the main menu.
The Bengals finished the season ranked 29th among the NFL’s 32 teams in rushing games with an average of 92.9 yards per game.
Only two playoff-qualifying teams have fared worse, and of the eight that make it to the second round this weekend, the Bengals sit last.
The Bengals have rushed for at least 100 yards in a game on just three occasions this season. The last time was on December 11, against the Cleveland Browns.
In their last two meetings against the Baltimore Ravens — wins in the regular season finale and in the first-round playoff game last week — the Bengals have rushed for 106 yards. In their last four games, they averaged 58 yards on the ground.
Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan admitted that the Bengals are not a team whose game is primarily focused on the ground game. However, he noted that the less emphasis on ground attack was more the look of recent games than a deliberate trend.
“First, we faced some really good defences. We played against (…) some teams who are desperate to stop the race, and who excel in this regard. The other point, I would say, is that we’ve been inclined to throw the ball around a little more in the last two weeks, partly because of that,” Callahan said.
The Bengals rebuilt an ineffective offensive line before the start of the season. The overhaul has helped slow rival clubs’ quarterback-hunting specialists, as Burrow suffered the most quarterback sacks in the NFL in 2021.
His 68.3 percent pass completion rate in 2022 ranked him second in the league behind Geno Smith of the Seattle Seahawks.
His passing average of 297.7 yards per game also made him second in the NFL behind Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. And he tied for second with Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills with 35 touchdown passes.
Several injuries in recent weeks will force the Bengals to use three reserves on their offensive line in their second-round playoff game against the Bills on Sunday.
It’s a situation that could increase the pressure on the young Bengals quarterback, although it takes a lot to upset him.
“If you really want to be successful in this league, you don’t have to be scared off by a specific situation,” Burrow noted.
“You have to be a bit cocky in this situation and make the plays you need to make. This is an aspect on which I lingered and which I try to put into practice. »