The halfway point of the Bengals' season comes at halftime of Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Fox 19) against Carolina at Paycor Stadium and quarterback Joe Burrow starts the day leading the NFL in passing yards with 2,329, 62 ahead of Thomas Edward Patrick Brady.
No Bengal has led the league in passing yards at the end of a season since Ken Anderson did it back-to-back when he won the 1974-75 NFL passing titles. Burrow reflected on his play in the season's first eight games before Wednesday's walk-through in the IEL Indoor facility.
"I think for the most part I've got the ball out quickly, and I think since Week 1, I've really done a good job taking care of the ball," said Burrow, who has thrown two interceptions since the opener and one came off Monday night's tip. "Last game we had some tough breaks in that department. But I think for the most part I'm playing smart, playing fast, getting the ball quickly and taking care of it."
He's on pace for 4,949 yards, 51 from becoming the Bengals' first 5,000-yard passer.
INJURY UPDATE: Head coach Zac Taylor said they expect to put starting cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (ACL) on season-ending injured reserve later this week. Since it was just a walk-through, Wednesday's injury report was projected and it had cornerback Eli Apple (hamstring), expected to start in place of Awuzie, limited. Same with backup wide receiver Stanley Morgan, who has missed the last two games.
But when it rains it pours, which is happening in the secondary. On top of the Awuzie injury, not practicing and up in the air for Sunday are starting slot cornerback Mike Hilton (finger) and the first cornerback off the bench in Tre Flowers (hamstring). Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said before the walk-through that first-round pick Dax Hill is going to move from safety to get more reps at outside cornerback after he had to finish there Monday night. Hill says he can't remember the last time he lined up at cornerback in a game.
"We'll have to get him snaps there for sure, as well as safety and other things that he does," Anarumo said. "We've been doing that some, thank God, we did it last week as an emergency, not enough. But we'll have to do more of it again."
Taylor also sounded optimistic D.J. Reader (knee) could come back after the Nov. 13 bye for the Nov. 20 Sunday nighter in Pittsburgh. Also not working Wednesday was Reader backup Josh Tupou (calf), who has missed the last two games.
Wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (hip) surfaced in the locker room on crutches.
BALANCING ACT: Burrow has thrown the fourth most passes in the league with 305 and those 38 per game would give him a Bengals-record 648 at the end of the season, 62 more than Carson Palmer in 2010.
Looking back at last year's 4-0 record when he threw for fewer than 200 yards and this year's 2-3 record when he throws for fewer than 300, Burrow said the Bengals have to find that old formula.
"In this league, you have to. If you have only one way to win a game, teams are going to be able to take that away and you're not going to win a ton," Burrow said. "Down the stretch that's what we were so great at last year. Just finding ways to win. It might not be pretty. We found ways. We've got to get back to that, those ugly tough divisional games, games on the road, where things might not be going great for you. You have to find ways to get wins in those games and this year we haven't."
NOT-SO-THRILL-RIDE: No matter how frustrating it gets, you're just not going to see Burrow lose it out there during losing. They don't call him Joe Cool for nothing.
"That's just not really who I've ever been. I don't really feel the need to do that," Burrow said. "I feel like I play my best when I kind of block out all the noise. Good, bad, indifferent. That goes media throughout the week and that also goes on game day when things maybe aren't going well or things are going well and just try to keep that same demeanor throughout."
So as the Bengals try to duplicate last year's 5-4 bye record with a win Sunday, look for the same old same old from No. 9 on what he calls the NFL roller coaster.
"Just like last week we were the best offense in the league and now all of a sudden we stink and everyone thinks we're going to miss the playoffs and we're going to lose all these games," Burrow said. "It's such a roller coaster each week and I think part of being quarterback is staying even keeled throughout the season, throughout games because everything is so up and down and you kind of need that voice and that level-headed mindset on the team and that's part of your job as quarterback."
HAIL MARY: Panthers quarterback P.J. Walker's 62-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to wide receiver D.J. Moore with 12 seconds left in regulation that should have beat the Falcons got plenty of love from Bengals quarterbacks past and present Wednesday.
Burrow: "Unbelievable throw. One of the best I've ever seen."
Head coach Zac Taylor: "You know that's one you can tell felt really good when that came off his hand … He's kind of moving to his left and his momentum is going forward and you can just tell he got everything into the ball and it came off his hand real nice. It didn't flutter at all, much further than most guys can throw it certainly. I'm sure in his head that came right off his fingertips and he thought, 'I got that one.'"
Moore's catch impressed Anarumo almost as much.
"I think we were getting off the plane on Sunday," said Anarumo said of the trip to Cleveland when the score interested him. "And I could not believe they had come back. So, I watched it and he just hoisted that thing. He could throw that thing and he threw it for sure. Great job adjusting to the ball by the wide receiver."