No. 1 pick Joe Burrow impresses Chargers, but defense turns over a victory
Joe Burrow reached for his facemask with a shocked look, then clasped his hands as if praying.
The Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback, with his team trailing the Chargers 16-13, had just thrown his first touchdown pass, a three-yard dart toward the side of the end zone that veteran receiver A.J. Green snagged with 11 seconds left in Sunday’s game.
But officials called offensive pass interference, as Green extended his arms and pushed off to create separation against Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward, negating the Bengals’ go-ahead score.
The next play, Cincinnati‘s Randy Bullock sailed a 31-yard kick far right, pushing the Chargers to 1-0 and handing Burrow his first loss instead.
Chargers players and coaches said Burrow, the top selection in April’s draft, played well and believe he set the tone for a solid career.
“He showed everybody why he was the No.1 pick,” Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram said. “He came out and made poised plays. He was leading those guys and I definitely believe he has a bright future.”
Tyrod Taylor struggles to generate offense, but a late touchdown coupled with a missed Bengals field-goal attempt gives the Chargers a 16-13 win.
Chargers players held varying levels of knowledge of Burrow. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley watched him grow up from elementary school. Defensive end Joey Bosa chased Burrow around the practice field in 2015 when Burrow ran the scout team at Ohio State.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who said he rarely watches college football, first heard of Burrow last year when, as a transfer, he threw for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns to lead Louisiana State to an undefeated season and a national championship.
On Sunday, Burrow made sure every Chargers player recognized him.
With two minutes remaining in the first quarter, Burrow scored the first touchdown, running 23 yards on a quarterback draw. On the play, the Chargers defensive line rushed aggressively upfield, leaving a lane open.
As he watched his team sink into a 7-0 hole, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn — who praised Burrow for having deceptive mobility — said he knew they would have to correct their scheme.
“We’re going to have to be careful with what coverages we get in,” Lynn said after the game, recalling what he thought to himself. “If we leave the middle of the field open, he can take advantage of that.”
In becoming the first new starting quarterback for the Chargers since 2006, Tyrod Taylor found limited success in Sunday’s win over the Bengals.
The Chargers played physically against Burrow, registering three sacks and six quarterback hits, led by Bosa’s three. Burrow also made rookie mistakes, misfiring on potential touchdown passes to open receivers Green and John Ross III in the same possession midway through the third quarter.
But the most critical error came in the fourth.
Trailing 16-13 after a Chargers field goal, Burrow drove the Bengals 52 yards to the Chargers’ 24. Cincinnati called a screen to running back Giovani Bernard, but defensive pressure disrupted the play.
Burrow flicked the ball into a tight window, but Ingram intercepted it, giving the Chargers the ball with a little more than five minutes to play. It was the second of two turnovers the Chargers forced, a category the team ranked last in the league in a season ago.
It positioned the Chargers the win a close game, another thing they didn’t do well last season. They were 2-9 in games decided by one possession.
“Every day our coaches always stress to win the turnover battle, and when you win the turnover battle, you give the team a chance to win,” Ingram said. “We won the turnover battle today and you see the outcome.”
Staff writer Emmanuel Morgan reported from Los Angeles.
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