CLEVELAND (AP) — Joe Burrow’s white uniform was streaked with grass stains. His right arm was intact but understandably a little sore.
His second NFL start was quite a workout — but not a win.
Burrow threw three touchdown passes and Cincinnati’s rookie quarterback showed incredible composure and poise in keeping the Bengals around until the end of a 35-30 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night.
The No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft completed 37 of 61 passes for 316 yards, and made a few dazzling plays that lit up social media and had many of the 6,000 Browns fans inside FirstEngergy Stadium feeling nervous.
But Burrow, who led LSU to a national championship last year after transferring from Ohio State, wasn’t interested in any outside praise.
“Losing isn’t very fun,” he said. “This might be the only time I’ve lost two games in a row. It doesn’t feel very good. … Losing is unacceptable to me.”
Burrow went toe to toe with Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, a fellow Heisman Trophy winner and top overall pick, who was impressed by what he saw from Cincinnati’s rookie.
“The hype is real with Joe,” said Mayfield, who threw two TD passes and helped the Browns bounce back from a dreadful opener. “Obviously, that team loves him. They follow him and he leads them.”
Burrow’s 61 attempts were the second-most in history for a rookie, bettered only by the 63 passes Carolina’s Chris Weinke threw in 2001.
It wasn’t necessarily the game plan Bengals coach Zac Taylor had in mind, but Burrow kept making plays and Cincinnati rode the 23-year-old, who threw a 9-yard TD pass to Tyler Boyd with 43 seconds left to pull the Bengals within 5.
“We felt like we had a lot of success in the passing game,” Taylor said. “This is the same thing that kind of happens to us, we get down and we have to throw the ball and we’re having success doing it. We have a lot of faith in Joe.”
As Burrow was making plays, NBA superstar and fellow Ohioan LeBron James praised the QB on Twitter by saying, “ ”Burrow is SPECIAL! He has the “IT” for sure.”
Following the game, Burrow said he appreciated the words, but would have preferred a win.
“I mean it’s nice to have those guys have my back but we’re 0-2,” he said. “That’s all that matters.”
Boyd, who led the Bengals with seven receptions for 72 yards, agreed with Burrow. The losing is taking its toll on the Bengals, who are 2-16 since the start of last season.
“We’re 0-2 right now and we’re very sick of this feeling,” he said. “It’s devastating. We hate it. But at the end of the day, ti’s not an easy job to do.”
Burrow took a few hard hits, including one from defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who dismissively threw the young QB down in the first half.
There was another embarrassing moment when Burrow had to scramble back and recover a snap that whizzed past him as he was trying to call a timeout.
But even that didn’t rattle Burrow, who kept coming back.
“Joe Burrow is really a good football player,” said Browns coach Kevin Stefanski, who got his first NFL win but will face Burrow in the years ahead. “He is a gamer. He is always coming at you, making plays with his feet and throwing the ball. I am very impressed with that young man.”
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