As the Bengals prepare for Sunday's game in Dallas (4:25 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12), Joe Burrow isn't dwelling on his career-high four interceptions. That happened in the season's first 25 minutes in a game that went 45 minutes more. Minkah Fitzpatrick's pick-six came on the second play of a game Burrow took 98 more snaps.
"I feel like I've always kind of been that way. Interceptions are going to happen, you try to limit them as much as you can," Burrow said before Wednesday's practice. But you've got to move on. There's a lot of plays to be had throughout the game. And we had 100 and some snaps, and so there were four snaps and an interception. That's 100 more snaps you've got to play."
If there was some rust from no preseasons snaps and some woozy play because of the appendectomy, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan thought it was all gone by halftime.
"He played fantastic in the second half. Really, probably from the mid second quarter on," Callahan said after practice. "He finally settled in, he was patient, took the completions that were there … he was lights out in the second half and overtime. When he needed to make plays, he made them. He made a really great throw off the scramble to Hayden Hurst there at the end to put us way down there on a really makeable kick range for us."
One takeaway seemed to emerge. Get used to the Bengals seeing two-high defenses more than anything else. It's not a staple for the Steelers, but they used it a bunch with those two deep safeties Sunday, making sure the Bengals' big play offense got only a 24-yard throw to wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase.
So that means what? The running game and patience. Think Burrow in Vegas last year. Or Denver. Fitzpatrick's play was a memo-to-self.
"Just take what the defense gives me," Burrow said. "Don't try to force it."
Or, as Callahan said, "Don't do too much, too early."
"That ball got into a window that was really tight for the second play of the game. You don't have to do that. There were other options there. You could've gotten rid of the ball, checked it down and hit Tee (Higgins) in the under route. Whatever that would have been, it didn't have to be so aggressive so early. Sometimes you're ready to go and you want to start putting it on somebody, and it was covered. He threw a ball to a guy that was covered. Quarterbacks do that. You wish they didn't sometimes, but it happens. Just be patient and you don't have to go score a touchdown on every play. We don't have to do that. I think he learned a good lesson there."
So that gets back to the question, where's the line? Burrow makes his living finishing off big plays. What's the difference between a gutsy throw and a forced one?
"There come times of the game when you have to go make a play," Burrow said. "But for the most part, if you take what the defense gives you, you're going to move the ball down the field and be efficient and put points on the board. So we have to get back to that mindset."
HUBER's MESSAGE: After his Bengals-record 208th game turned out to be one of the damndest, punter Kevin Huber, now the oldest player on the active 53-man roster, had a message for his mates before Wednesday's practice.
"By the end of the year, it's going to be a blip on the radar," said Huber of the inscrutable 23-20 overtime loss to the Steelers. "We can't get caught up in this game too much. We didn't win every game last year and we started 1-1."
Just go back to Huber's first Bengals game. Ever. The Immaculate Deflection. Gus Johnson screaming on CBS, "Brandon Stokley, Brandon Stokley." Broncos 12, Bengals 7 on Opening Day, 2009, in this same building.
The Bengals were winning, 7-6. Denver was backed up on its 13-yard line and Bengaldom was celebrating with 28 seconds left. Quarterback Kyle Orton flung it down the left sideline for Brandon Marshall, Bengals cornerback Leon Hall tipped it and the ball somehow went yards backward to Stokley and there was nobody behind him. The 87-yard carnage took 17 seconds and is the longest winning TD pass in NFL history with less than two minutes left in a game.
Devastating, right? Unforgettable, right?
"I don't remember my first game at all," Huber said. "Who did we play?"
Told Denver, there was flicker of recognition. "The game the ball deflected off the defender?"
Right. Point made. The Bengals went on to sweep the AFC North that season and won the division in a sea of Cinderella seasons.
As he looked back on Sunday's blip, Huber stands by his decision not to eat the high snap on third down and see if emergency snapper Mitch Wilcox could get one better on fourth down as Evan McPherson teed up the winner in overtime from 29 yards out that was yanked left. The only thing Huber wishes is that he and McPherson weren't so "urgent."
"I think we were after what happened on the first kick when they blocked the extra point," Huber said. "I went with my instincts. We've practiced a thousand snaps that were worse than that and I was able to catch it and get it down. I shouldn't have been as abrupt. Evan and I were probably both a little urgent. When you rush it and don't trust the process, more times than not it's not going to end well."
Huber said he thought Wilcox did "a great job."
"Everybody jokes about that job, but come Game Day nobody wants to do it," Huber said. "He never lost confidence. His one punt snap was perfect."
Sunday's game in Dallas marks just the ninth game in Huber's 209 that Clark Harris hasn't been his long snapper. They're going with rookie Cal Adomitis after Harris suffered what appears to be a season-ending bicep tear.
"Cal will be fine," Huber said. "I feel really bad for Clark. It's going to be really weird not to have him in front of me."
Harris, 38, is on injured reserve. Huber, 37, is now the old man.
CORDELL PRAISE: What Bengals rookie in the history of the club had a bigger challenge than left guard Cordell Volson in his first NFL start? Hey kid, go play 100 snaps and most of them are going to be against future Hall-of-Famer Cam Heyward.
Heyward had his moments, particularly on the bull rush, but so did Volson and if he came out of it bruised, he also came out of it unbowed. Pro Football Focus rated him the 25th best run blocking guard in the league, a slot ahead of old friend Kevin Zeitler, a Bengals' first-round pick from 10 years ago. His pass blocking dropped him to 53rd overall, but still ahead of such vets as Andrew Norwell. Roger Saffold and Brandon Scherff, the Jags' 16 million per year man. Not to mention Zion Johnson, the Chargers' first-round pick.
More importantly, the Bengals coaches were extremely encouraged how their fourth-rounder did.
"You see play strength. You see tenacity. You see consistency. He didn't ever get beat bad or beat fast, which are things you can live with that," Callahan said. "Guys are going to get edged and you're going to get pushed and all that, but he held up. He had a really nice hand trap on Cam Heyward where he went and chopped his hands and buckled him down for a rep."
The fact two of his NFL outings have come against the Canton-bound pair of Heyward and Aaron Donald and he's battled to live another day and improve makes them think they've got something in Volson.
"He's got all the things you look for: he's smart; he's tough; he's physical," Callahan said. "He's got some movement in the run game which was really impressive to see. He did a great job fitting in there with (center) Ted (Karras) on a couple of combinations that were really good. I think there were a lot of positives to his debut and hoping to see it look even better now that we have a feel for what the live thing feels like on a big stage. He hasn't played that kind of competition ever. It was good to see."
JOE PREP: Burrow, the defensive coordinator's son, also makes his money studying film besides crunch time completions. He lives on tendencies and trends. The problem is, early in the year, there's not much tape and that makes the October games a little more predictable than the ones in September. For instance, scouting the Cowboys takes some extra time.
"It's difficult because you have to go back to last year to see what you expect them to do. But it's a whole new year. They've got new players, a lot of new assistant coaches sometimes," Burrow said of any team. "You have to kind of extrapolate what you expect to see against your offense.
"So you go look at offenses that might be similar to yours, so go back and watch that tape and see what they did to them. In the early-season games you just have to be creative about making adjustments on the fly and I think we have really smart players that are able to do that."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: News was encouraging on wide receiver Tee Higgins (concussion). He went limited Wednesday. So did tight end Devin Asiasi (quad) in his first Bengals practice. Punt returner Trent Taylor (hamstring) didn't go. Neither did backup nose tackle Josh Tupou (shin). How good were Tupou and starter D.J. Reader against the run Sunday? PFF rated Reader 11th and Tupou 20th.