Joe Burrow threw four touchdown passes, three to backup Samaje Perine, and the Cincinnati Bengals rallied past the Pittsburgh Steelers, 37-30, on Sunday.
The Bengals (6-4) won for the fourth time in five games by leaning heavily on Perine, who thrived as starter Joe Mixon missed the second half after going into the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Burrow completed 24 of 39 passes for 355 yards on the day he became the third-fastest player in NFL history to pass 10,000 yards. Perine ran for 30 yards and caught four passes for 52 yards, running into the end zone three times as the defenders assigned to cover him gave chase in vain.
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Pittsburgh (3-7) saw its chance for a repeat of the Week 1 upset he pulled off in Cincinnati in September disappear in the second half as a 20-17 lead slipped away. Rookie Kenny Pickett passed for 265 yards and a touchdown and Najee Harris ran for 90 yards and two scores, but the NFL’s second-lowest scoring offense sputtered most of the second half.
Burrow spent the first half tearing apart the Steelers underneath. Pittsburgh adapted by having its defensive front throw its hands up to tip passes or disrupt Burrow’s timing. It worked occasionally, with Levi Wallace intercepting a pass on a deflection and TJ Watt making an alien snare in the third quarter.
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The Bengals responded by letting Burrow look deep, connect with Tyler Boyd, and practice the team’s call Tyler Irwin for long gains during an eight-play, 93-yard drive in the fourth quarter that ended with Perine throwing Wallace over the goal line dragged for a 6-yard score that made it 34-23 with 4:35 left.
Cincinnati has won four out of five against the Steelers. The Bengals had dropped 14 of their previous 15 against their old AFC North nemesis.
All but one of those losses came before Burrow arrived. His combination of poise, accuracy and swagger has increased a franchise’s fortunes and shifted the balance of power in a rivalry that has long dominated Pittsburgh.
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Burrow didn’t get there without going through some growing pains as a rookie in 2020. Pickett is in the same spot after being handed the keys to the offense midway through Week 3.
While the Steelers showed progress during a back-and-forth first half—Pittsburgh’s 20 points tied for the most points it had scored under the rules this season—the momentum faltered in the second half.
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Four of the Steelers’ first five possessions after halftime ended with a punt, giving Burrow all the space he needed to effectively end any slim outside chance Pittsburgh had to play a part in the division race along the track.