The Cincinnati Bengals got their first win of the season in Week 3 on Monday Night Football against the Los Angeles Rams. A win is a win, but the victory came from a relatively ugly offensive performance as quarterback Joe Burrow still looked hampered with a calf injury. So, despite picking up the W, here are the three concerns the team still has after Monday night.
3. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd didn’t look sharp
The Joe Burrow injury is, by far, the biggest Bengals concern right now (more on that below), but the passing game as a whole didn’t look sharp all game.
Tee Higgins really struggled in the Bengals Week 3 matchup against the Rams. He ended the night catching just two of eight targets for 21 yards and even had a big drop early in the game. Tyler Boyd started hot, catching four passes in the first quarter and a half, then disappearing until the fourth quarter.
Whether the wide receivers' poor play is because their QB isn’t on point or they just aren’t sharp yet this season, the pass-catchers for Cincinnati need to get better if the team is going to click and start winning games more consistently.
2. Penalties, penalties, penalties
The Bengals had seven penalties for 49 yards in this game, including three false starts in the first 18 minutes of game time. There was also an offensive pass interference on Tee Higgins and a delay of game on the offense in the fourth quarter.
When a team isn’t playing well overall, the one thing they can control is their discipline in not getting penalties, and the Bengals didn’t do that against the Rams in Week 3.
With Burrow limited, the team can’t shoot itself in the foot and push the offense back, and the defense needs to hold strong and not give the opposing offense free yards.
When the QB does get healthy and back to form, this will be something to watch moving forward, as penalties can hurt a team even when they are playing well.
1. The Joe Burrow calf injury
Now that we have those two relatively minor issues out of the way, we can address the major cause for concern, and that is the Joe Burrow injury.
The QB toughed it out against the Rams this week, and he should be commended for that. However, Burrow was just 26-of-49 (53%) for 259 yards and an interception on Monday night, and that is not a patented Joe Burrow performance.
The Bengals QB is one of the most accurate passers in the league. He led the league in completion rate in 2021 at 70.4% and had been over 65% every season in the league. After the Bengals Week 3 tilt against the Rams, his completion percentage on the year is now 55.4%, which is 32nd in the league right now. Only Jordan Love and Zach Wilson have connected at a lower rate in 2023.
One of the big problems for Bengals fans and the media right now is that it’s hard to know whether Burrow’s struggles are strictly due to the injury or because he is just rusty after the leg issues knocked him out for most of the preseason.
Either way, the QB needs to be better if Cincinnati hopes to have any chance to make noise this season. The next few weeks should help, as the Bengals have winnable games against the Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, and Seattle Seahawks leading into their Week 7 bye.