The correlation between Joe Burrow getting sacked and the Cincinnati Bengals losing is pretty strong. The Bengals are 18-3 when Burrow’s sack percentage is smaller than 6%, and is sacked twice or fewer times.
Conversely, they’re 8-16-1 when both of those figures are larger. Protecting Burrow from taking too many sacks has been a clear priority for Cincinnati since his breakout 2021 season.
But Burrow himself also has a responsibility in the matter. Quarterbacks are also culpable for the hits they take, and Burrow has taken more than enough for having played just three seasons. But is he causing all of that pressure, or is it just happening out of his control?
A common narrative would have you believe the former; that Burrow holds the ball too long and turns far too many pressures into sacks. Telling data from Pro Football Focus says otherwise.
While it’s true that Burrow’s pressure to sack rate was indeed one of the highest among starting quarterbacks in 2022 (22.9%), the percentage of pressures he was charged for (6.0%) ranked as the third-lowest in the NFL, only trailing Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins. The graph below is courtesy of PFF’s 2023 QB Annual.
This really puts his protection into context. A quarterback who’s responsible for just 6% of all the pressure he incurs while 16 other starters are over 15% is pretty jarring.
It’s a testament to Burrow getting the ball out quickly (2.51 seconds ranked third-fastest in 2022), and just how tumultuous his offensive line was at times.
posting this again to embed in an article better pic.twitter.com/wyj2fvNdmv
— John Sheeran (@John__Sheeran) July 21, 2023
And for what it’s worth, Burrow’s pressure to sack rate was at a whopping 30.5% from Week 1-8. He managed to drop it down to 17.2% from Week 9 through the AFC Divisional Round, the stretch of games in which the Bengals went 10-0 leading up to the AFC title game.
It’s fair to say the catalyst for winning 10-straight games was Burrow making strides in this one area alone. Sacks have truly been Burrow’s biggest weakness since entering the NFL, but it’s clear as to why that’s the case.
His ability to escape broken pockets and create out of structure should never be mitigated by scheme or the fear of protecting him. He just needs a stable group of blockers in front of him. And with luck, he may just have that for the first time this year.