Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow did plenty last season to establish himself as an elite NFL player.
The former LSU star unexpectedly led the Bengals to a Super Bowl appearance.
And while Cincinnati lost to the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI, Burrow showed everyone that he has what it takes to be the face of the NFL.
Burrow’s surprise Super Bowl run is what most will remember from last season.
But there was actually a small moment against the Green Bay Packers early in the season where Burrow showed some of the same traits that made Peyton Manning a Hall of Famer.
In the Bengals’ 25-22 overtime loss to Green Bay last October, Burrow used his freedom at the line of scrimmage to check out of a pass play on second-and-12 and instead he handed the ball off to Samaje Perine.
The play went for 10 yards and the Bengals found themselves in a more manageable third-and-two situation.
Burrow and Bengals head coach Zac Taylor recounted the play recently to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer.
Taylor pointed out that Burrow saw something in the defense that made him believe a run play was a better option.
Cincinnati’s head coach noted that most quarterbacks would want to be the hero and throw the ball in that situation, but Burrow’s intelligence and ability to stay calm and present in the moment led to the right decision.
“WE CALLED A PASS ON FIRST-AND-15 OR SECOND-AND-12 OR SOMETHING, AND ALL OF A SUDDEN, HE’S HANDING THE BALL OFF FOR A 10-YARD GAIN,” TAYLOR SAID. “AND IT’S LIKE, O.K., WELL, I GUESS WE’RE DOING THAT NOW. AND THAT’S GREAT TO SEE, BECAUSE MOST GUYS ARE GONNA TAKE EVERY OPPORTUNITY THEY CAN TO THROW IT. BUT HE SEES SOMETHING IN THE DEFENSE AND HE’S GONNA TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT ANY WAY WE CAN.”
“THAT WOULD’VE BEEN AGAINST THE PACKERS,” BURROW SAID. “WE GOT A LIGHT BOX, AND THE PACKERS WERE PLAYING [THEIR SAFETIES] REALLY DEEP. IT WAS EITHER FIRST-AND-15 OR SECOND-AND-12, SOMETHING LIKE THAT. WE WERE ABLE TO GET IT BACK TO A THIRD-AND-MANAGEABLE, WHICH WAS IDEAL.”
INDEED, SITUATIONALLY, BURROW’S JOB WAS TO DIG THE BENGALS OUT AFTER A TWO-YARD LOSS BY JOE MIXON PUT THE OFFENSE BEHIND THE STICKS, AND HIS AUDIBLE TO A PERINE RUN LED TO AN EASY JAUNT THROUGH THAT LIGHT BOX AND INTO THIRD-AND-2. CINCINNATI THEN CAPITALIZED BY GETTING AGGRESSIVE WITH A 21-YARD BACK-SHOULDER CONNECTION TO CHASE TO HELP SET A 49-YARD KICK FROM MCPHERSON TO WIN IT IN OT. HE MISSED, AND THE PACKERS WON.
Little things like that from a quarterback are often glossed over.
That’s the stuff, however, that takes a quarterback from being great to elite. It’s not always the highlight throws and ridiculous scrambles. Sometimes, it’s the plays that aren’t made.
Burrow could’ve forced something in that situation. But instead, he made the smart football play. It’s decisions like that one that separate Burrow from other quarterbacks in the league that might be more physically talented.
I don’t know if Burrow is going to end up in the Hall of Fame or not, but he’s certainly looking the part so far.