Cincinnati Bengals star Joe Burrow has defeated the powerhouse Kansas City Chiefs three times over the past 11-plus months, but a different win-loss mark hangs over him this week.
Burrow is 0-4 against Cleveland and the quarterback who defeated Patrick Mahomes again last weekend will try to change that ugly factoid when the Bengals host the Browns on Sunday.
“We haven’t executed up to our ability, so we’re gonna have to execute the game plan to the best of our ability and move the ball, put points on the board and keep their offense off the field,” Burrow said during Wednesday’s press conference on how to end the skid against Cleveland.
Overall, the Bengals (8-4) have lost five straight and eight of the past nine to the Browns (5-7).
On Halloween, it was a one-sided win for host Cleveland. Jacoby Brissett was 17-of-22 passing for 278 yards and one touchdown and Nick Chubb rushed for 101 yards and two scores as the Browns rolled to a 32-13 victory and outgained Cincinnati 440-229.
Burrow completed 25 of 35 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns. But he was sacked five times and also threw an interception. He has been sacked just five times in Cincinnati’s four games since losing to the Browns.
The quarterback who guided the Bengals to last season’s Super Bowl before losing to the Los Angeles Rams will see a new face this Sunday. It marks the first time he has matched up against Deshaun Watson.
Watson will be making his second start for the Browns after serving an 11-game suspension from the NFL due to alleged sexual misconduct involving more than two dozen massage therapists.
He was just 12 of 22 for 131 yards with a career-low 53.4 passer rating in last Sunday’s 27-14 win over the Houston Texans. Cleveland didn’t score an offensive touchdown during an outing in which Watson was clearly rusty.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said there is no way of knowing how long it will take for Watson to find his form.
“I don’t know if I can put a timeframe on it,” Stefanski said Wednesday. “He’s working very hard. He’s locked in on the game plan, working hard out at practice. There were things that come up in your first game back that you just have to correct.”
Cleveland tight end David Njoku, who is hopeful of returning from a one-game absence due to knee injury, is eager to see Watson firsthand.
“He’s progressing every day,” said Njoku, who was limited in practice on Wednesday. “That’s all we really ask for him is to progress every day. We’re all excited for his progression.”
The game against the Texans — his former club — was the first in 700 days for Watson. The three-time Pro Bowler passed for an NFL-high 4,823 yards with 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in 2020, his final season with Houston.
Bengals defensive tackle D.J. Reader played three seasons (2017-19) with Watson and hopes there isn’t a quick turnaround.
“Hopefully a couple more weeks,” Reader said of Watson hitting his stride. “I’m always cheering for him. That’s my brother. I went through a lot of battles with that guy, I know where he comes from, I know the cloth he’s cut from, I just want to see him do well, but we are going to get after him on Sunday.”
The Bengals have won four straight games and eight of their past 10 games after an 0-2 start. The Browns have won their past two games and are trying to make a late push for a playoff spot.
Cleveland placed linebacker Sione Takitaki (ACL) and receiver Anthony Schwartz (concussion) on injured reserve on Wednesday.
Three active Browns missed Wednesday’s practice due to injuries — cornerbacks Denzel Ward (ankle, illness) and A.J. Green (knee) and offensive tackle James Hudson (illness).
Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst (calf) has been deemed doubtful to play by coach Zac Taylor. Hurst was injured during the 27-24 win over Kansas City. Running back Joe Mixon (concussion) was a full participant after missing the past two games.
–Field Level Media