Taking the field against a team he once battled for a Lombardi Trophy, Joe Burrow came away victorious this time around.
However, the calf-strained quarterback hardly resembled the all-star gunslinger of past autumns and postseason ascents.
Burrow gutted it out on Monday and captained his Cincinnati Bengals to win No. 1, but he hardly looked like his usual phenomenal self in a 19-16 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Nonetheless, the reward of victory was worth the risk of injury.
"There is risk to go out there and potentially re-injure it, but there's also a risk to go out there and be 0-3," Burrow said after the game, "so I wanted to be out there for my guys, and I was confident I was going to be able to do what I needed to do to get the win."
Burrow, who played the Rams for the first time since they defeated his Bengals in Super Bowl LVI, was questionable coming into the evening after aggravating his calf injury in Week 2. For the most part, Burrow looked stiff, uneasy and uncomfortable, and always quick with his release when any pressure came his way.
As it's been through a 1-2 start, the Bengals offense largely sputtered and injured calf or not, Burrow shouldered the load, completing 26 of 49 passes for no touchdowns, an interception and a 59.8 rating.
For many a pundit, conventional wisdom pointed to the Bengals resting their franchise quarterback, allowing his pesky calf to heal up in order to avoid a potential long-term ailment. That wasn't the move for the Bengals and Burrow, though.
Said Bengals head coach Zac Taylor: "We were in a good shape the last couple days. We felt like we knew where this was headed, so we were in a good spot."
Said Burrow: "Went through a workout today, felt good enough to play. Felt good out there."
Burrow certainly didn't look great, or to the exceptional standard he's set.
Nonetheless, he came out a victor on two fronts despite sub-par play.
Burrow won a game for the first time with a sub-80 passer rating. He also came away unscathed -- or at least no more scathed than he was prior to facing Aaron Donald and the Rams, who sacked him twice and racked up six QB hits.
"I feel good," Burrow said. "We didn't have any setbacks today, but still day to day, and I've learned through this process that you can have one at any time. So, it was good to get through this one, and that means it'll be stronger for next week, so hopefully, I can have a full week of practice to prepare for next week."
Thus, though all's well that ended well on Monday, Burrow's health will once again be the prevailing storyline heading into a Week 4 matchup on the road against the Tennessee Titans. Another quandary will be if an injured Burrow can produce after three sub-par games.
Burrow has two games with a sub-60 passer rating this season. He had no such games in his career previously. He's thrown just two touchdowns in three games with as many interceptions.
His play was clearly altered by his calf, and he admitted as much.
"I was pretty cautious with extending plays," he said. "I was quick to throw the ball away. But we were able to get the job done."
Burrow and the Bengals got the job done on Monday. As for Week 4 and beyond, that remains to be seen because Monday changed nothing in Cincinnati's approach to its QB1 and his calf going forward.
Monday was Monday, tomorrow's a new day, and the day-by-day approach will continue.
"I'm in here saying day to day because that's what we're doing," Taylor said. "You just never fully know, and you just want honest responses from him, which he gave, and you talk to the doctors, and everyone gets on the same page and feels good about it, and he goes out there and delivers a performance like he did."