The Cincinnati Bengals are in a rebuild mode; the Eagles are in a free-fall at the moment.
It’s a long season (hopefully!) and things change. But right now, the Bengals have a slight advantage over the Eagles. It’s the element of surprise. And its name is Joe Burrow.
Cincinnati fell to 0-2 last Thursday, after suffering a 35-30 defeat at Cleveland.
“I will never adjust to or accept losing,” said Bengals rookie QB Joe Burrow after the Browns game. “That is just something that is not in my mindset, so this 0-2 start is really hurting me, and I know it’s hurting Coach Taylor and everybody in (the locker room). We will never adjust to losing. We will never accept losing. We are just going to have to get it right.”
Burrow, though, was among the Bengals’ bright spots on Thursday. He completed an NFL rookie-record 37 passes on the night, and kept Cincinnati close with his playmaking ability. But he also attempted 61 passes, the second-most ever by an NFL rookie (Carolina’s Chris Weinke had 63 in 2001) and second-most ever by a Bengals QB (Jon Kitna had 68 in an OT game vs. Pittsburgh in 2001).
Burrow, though, showed up in big moments throughout the game, and helped Cincinnati’s offense convert all five of its fourth-down attempts. It marked the first time since 1970 that the Bengals have gone perfect on as many fourth down attempts in a single game (Elias Sports Bureau’s records do not go back further than 1970). He also passed for 316 yards and three TDs, including two in the fourth quarter while the Bengals attempted a comeback.
One of the most painful parts of Thursday’s game was the loss of TE C.J. Uzomah, who earlier in the game was on the receiving end of Burrow’s first career TD pass. Uzomah went down in the fourth quarter with a right Achilles injury, which Taylor confirmed on Friday was a tear that would cause him to miss the rest of the season.
Last week, Taylor squared off against his college head coach, Bill Callahan, who is now offensive line coach for the Browns. This weekend’s game at Philadelphia also figures to hold personal meaning for Taylor, as he gets set to square off against his younger brother, Press, who serves as the Eagles’ passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Still, though, Taylor’s focus remains on getting his team into the win column.
His best hope is that Burrow continues to play well against the Eagles, who historically do not have a very good track record against young upstart quarterbacks with whom they are unfamiliar.
Philadelphia enters Sunday’s game 0-2, after falling 37-19 to the L.A. Rams last week.
The series: The Bengals lead, 9-3-1. Cincinnati’s .731 winning percentage against the Eagles is its second-highest against any NFL opponent.
The only higher winning percentage has come against Detroit (9-3-0, .750). The Bengals, who are 5-3 at Philadelphia, have won three of the past four meetings and have not lost to the Eagles since 2000. The two teams tied 13-13 on Nov. 16, 2008 in Cincinnati. It was the only NFL tie in a period of essentially 10 years, running from a portion of 2003 into a portion of ’12. The Bengals won the first five games of the series, which spanned from 1971-88. The Eagles’ longest winning streak in the series is two games, from games in 1997 and 2000.
Bengals-Eagles connections: Bengals head coach Zac Taylor and Eagles passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Press Taylor are brothers … Eagles K Jake Elliott entered the NFL as a fifth-round draft pick (153rd overall) of the Bengals in 2017 … Eagles C Jason Kelce played at the University of Cincinnati … Bengals DT Mike Daniels is from Stratford, N.J. (Highland Regional High School) … Bengals LS Clark Harris is from Manahawkin, N.J. (Southern Regional High School) … Eagles P Cameron Johnston played at Ohio State University … Eagles G Jamon Brown is from Louisville, Ky. (Fern Creek High School), and played at the University of Louisville … Eagles G Brandon Brooks (Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform) played at Miami (Ohio) University … Eagles RB Michael Warren (practice squad) played at the University of Cincinnati and is from Toledo, Ohio (Central Catholic High School) … Bengals assistant special teams coach Colt Anderson played for the Eagles from 2010-13 … Bengals tight ends coach James Casey played for the Eagles from 2013-14 … Bengals wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell coached for the Eagles from 2013-15 … Bengals linebackers coach Al Golden was head coach at Temple University from 2006-10 … Bengals offensive line coach Jim Turner coached at Temple University from 2003-05, and at the University of Delaware from ’05-06 … Eagles defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel played for the Bengals from 2002-03 … Eagles run game coordinator/defensive line coach Matt Burke was on the Bengals’ coaching staff from 2014-15 …Eagles assistant tight ends coach Mike Bartrum is from Pomeroy, Ohio … Eagles assistant defensive line coach Nathan Ollie coached at Eastern Kentucky University in 2018 … Eagles director of team development Joe Pannunzio coached at Murray State University from 2000-05.
Burrow’s supporting cast unmatched: Bengals QB Joe Burrow this season has one of the most statistically accomplished supporting casts of any rookie QB ever. Burrow is only the fifth rookie QB in NFL history, and just the second first-rounder, to start a single game and have with him on the roster at least one player with multiple 1000-yard rushing seasons and two players with multiple 1000-yard receiving seasons. Burrow this season has suited up alongside HB Joe Mixon (two career 1000-yard rushing seasons), WR A.J. Green (six 1000-yard receiving seasons) and WR Tyler Boyd (two 1000-yard receiving seasons). The only other rookie first-round QB was the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger (11th overall pick in 2004), who had RBs Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis, along with WRs Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress.
There were three instances of it happening with rookie QBs selected outside the first round. In 2001, Dallas’ Quincy Carter (second-round pick) had RB Emmitt Smith, and WRs Joey Galloway and Raghib Ismail. In 2005, St. Louis’ Ryan Fitzpatrick (seventh rounder) had RB Marshall Faulk, and WRs Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. And in 2016, Dallas’ Dak Prescott (fourth rounder) had RBs Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris, along with TE Jason Witten and WR Dez Bryant.
Wilson leads NFL in KOR average: Bengals S Brandon Wilson burst onto the scene last season as one of the NFL’s top kickoff returners, and he has continued that momentum into 2020. Wilson currently boasts a 43.7-yard average on kickoff returns this season, more than 11 yards better than the next-best qualifier (Pittsburgh’s Ray-Ray McCloud, 32.3). All three of Wilson’s kickoff returns this year have gone for more than 40 yards.
Wilson began 2019 not even listed on Cincinnati’s depth chart at KOR. But injuries at the position thrust him into the role in Game 5 vs. Arizona, and he never looked back. The next game, he returned the opening kickoff for a TD. He ended up missing the final four games of 2019 due to a right hand injury, but not before he racked up an NFL-best 31.3-yard average on kickoff returns (20 returns, 625 yards, one TD), good for the second-best single-season mark in team history. That average came despite Wilson holding the No. 1 KOR spot for just eight games.
Mixon and Boyd chasing Chad and Rudi: Bengals HB Joe Mixon and WR Tyler Boyd this season are looking to become just the second duo in team history to record 1000 rushing yards and 1000 receiving yards together in three consecutive seasons. They would join WR Chad Johnson and HB Rudi Johnson, who achieved the feat from 2004-06. Chad and Rudi Johnson also are the only other duo to hit their respective 1000-yard marks in back-to-back seasons, a feat Mixon and Boyd did last year. The Bengals have had a 1000-yard rusher and receiver in the same season 15 times in team history, meaning Boyd and Mixon currently own two of those instances.