Joe Burrow's calf is sore again, an ominous sign for the 0-2 Bengals

CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Burrow’s calf is sore again, and that means this year’s 0-2 start may not be like last year’s for the Bengals.

Cincinnati lost its first two games in 2022 but rallied behind Burrow to finish 12-4 and win the AFC North.

This year has been even rougher thus far. Burrow missed training camp with a calf injury, signed a $275 million contract before the season that made him the NFL’s highest-paid player by average annual salary, then came out with a dud in a season-opening loss to Cleveland.

Burrow was better Sunday in a 27-24 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, but he limped off the field late in the fourth quarter and was seen massaging his calf on the sideline. While he said he could’ve gone back into the game if the Bengals had one more shot, he’s not sure how it’s going to feel Monday and Tuesday.

“It’s pretty sore,” Burrow said. “There’s no telling how it will feel. We’ll see in the next couple of days.”

Another problem for Cincinnati is that both of this year’s losses have been to AFC North rivals, leaving it in a hole going into a Monday night game against the Los Angeles Rams. Only one of the first two games last year was against a division foe.

The Bengals have seven games before they play another division opponent — at Baltimore on Nov. 16.

The Bengals didn’t score the season’s first offensive touchdown until late in the third quarter. They added a score in the fourth quarter with the offense showing signs of life.

“When your quarterback misses camp, it’s tough to start fast,” Burrow said. “That’s not an ideal situation.”

The franchise QB was sacked just once after his line couldn’t contain Cleveland’s pass rushers in the opener.

“I thought Burrow was great,” coach Zac Taylor said. “His protection was unbelievable. I felt like we were finding a rhythm.”

Burrow, however, threw a red-zone interception on the Bengals’ first possession of the second half.

“I thought we moved the ball well the whole game,” Burrow said. “We did some good things in the first half, and I thought we got rolling in the second half.

“It still comes down to that turnover in the red zone.”

Burrow finished 27 of 41 for 222 yards. The Bengals gained 219 of their 282 yards of offense after halftime.

NFL teams that start 0-2 historically have a tough time making the playoffs, much less reaching the AFC championship game like Cincinnati did last year.

“That’s the beauty of a 17-game season,” Taylor said. “It’s a very difficult division. This is exactly where we were last year. It’s not ideal, but there were a lot of positive things.

“We feel like we’re in great shape. We’ll make some corrections and adjustments and move forward.”

Burrow’s confidence wasn’t shaken.

“We need to have great practices and a great week and build on that,” Burrow said. “We’re 0-2, but we’ve done that before. It’s not what you want, but we’ll bounce back. That’s what we do.”