CINCINNATI (AP) — Heisman winner Joe Burrow ran 23 yards untouched for a touchdown — the best moment of his NFL debut — but the Los Angeles Chargers roughed him up and rallied for a 16-13 victory Sunday over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Playing in empty Paul Brown Stadium, Burrow got his first snaps in the NFL and learned the hard way what it’s like to face a tough front line.
The Bengals (0-1) also had an in-character finish. A.J. Green was called for offensive interference in the end zone in the closing seconds, and Randy Bullock missed a 31-yard field goal try with 2 seconds left.
A line anchored by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III held the quarterback from national champion LSU to 23 of 36 passing for 192 yards with three sacks and a costly interception. Twice, Burrow overthrew open receivers for what would have been touchdowns.
He moved the Bengals to the LA 23-yard line in the closing minutes and made a rookie mistake, forcing a shovel pass that Ingram picked off. Then, he moved them into range again, but Bullock missed.
Los Angeles (1-0) got the better of the matchup between teams that picked in the top 6 of the draft. Both took quarterbacks, but the Chargers decided to let Justin Herbert watch and learn while Tyrod Taylor moved into Philip Rivers’ role.
Taylor finished 16 of 30 for 208 yards. Joshua Kelley ran 5 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Cincinnati won two games last season, giving it the first overall pick, and has dropped 22 of its last 25 games overall.
The Bengals took a low-risk approach with Burrow, using a lot of short passes. Burrow was under consistent pressure from the Chargers’ line.
His first NFL score came on a designed draw play that surprised the Chargers. The middle of LA’s defense opened, and Burrow ran 23 yards untouched, slamming the ball to the ground in celebration.
Burrow overthrew John Ross and wide-open Green on back-to-back plays in the third quarter, wasting two touchdown opportunities.
Players stood at the goal lines and linked arms — a few raised fists — while “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was played after pregame warm-ups, and then headed to the locker rooms. They returned and gathered at midfield, linking arms, for the national anthem.
Chargers: Two injuries forced a shuffle on the offensive line. C Mike Pouncey was inactive with a hip injury. LG Dan Feeney moved to center and Forrest Lamp took his spot. RG guard Trai Turner was out with knee injury, replaced by Ryan Groy. … LB Drue Tranquill hurt his left ankle and was carted off in the first quarter.
Bengals: DT Geno Atkins was out with a shoulder injury that prevented him from practicing last week. … RG Xavier Su’a-Filo hurt his left ankle in the third quarter.
The Chargers open SoFi Stadium against Kansas City, which beat Houston 34-20 on Thursday night in the season opener.
The Bengals play at Cleveland on Thursday night. Cincinnati beat Cleveland 33-23 at Paul Brown Stadium to end last season, one of the Bengals’ two wins.
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