The Bengals (1-2) were facing their first potential three-game losing streak since Burrow's rookie season in 2020. That was a big factor in Burrow pushing hard to play in the prime-time game despite the calf issue.
"There is risk to go out there and potentially reinjure it," Burrow said. "But there's also the risk to not go out there and be 0-3. So I wanted to be out there for my guys, and I was confident that I would be able to do what I needed to get the win."
Burrow was 26-of-49 passing for 259 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Afterward, he acknowledged that he and the offense need to be better. However, their performance was enough on a night when Cincinnati linebacker Logan Wilson had two interceptions and the defense tallied six sacks and held the Rams to one touchdown on four red zone drives.
Burrow said he went through a workout Monday morning and felt good enough to play. He said the criteria was simply not having any setbacks. Once he practiced Friday and Saturday, he said he felt confident in his ability to compete and voiced that sentiment to team personnel.
Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase was vocal throughout the week about Burrow not playing if he wasn't completely healthy, and Chase repeated that opinion before the game.
"I was like, 'You got nuts, boy. I didn't want you to play,'" Chase said. "That just shows that Joe's hardheaded. But he's a football player, man. You can't knock him from being tough like that. They don't make too many quarterbacks tough like that."
Burrow responded by telling Chase that he was going to get the ball often against the Rams (1-2). And that's exactly what happened: Chase had 12 catches on 15 targets for 141 yards, including a 43-yard completion that tested Burrow's calf.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor, the team's offensive playcaller, dialed up a fake toss for Burrow that involved him rolling to his right with no protection. He found a wide-open Chase for Cincinnati's longest play of the season.
Taylor said the decision to have Burrow exposed like that came out of a discussion in the days preceding the game about whether the two felt comfortable about it. The coach and quarterback had another conversation before the play that eventually set up a field goal.
"I asked him a few plays before, and he felt good about it," Taylor said. "It's a quick toss, probably seven steps before he whipped out the bench route to Ja'Marr."
The Bengals didn't need Burrow to move a ton. They just needed for him to be mobile enough. Burrow said he was cautious with extending plays and wasn't shy about throwing the ball away quickly as he tried to get through the game.
Despite being sacked twice and hit six times, with Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald registering two of those hits, Burrow was on the field for the end of the contest.
The signal-caller knows the calf injury could flare up over the course of the season. But Monday's performance was a promising sign as the Bengals prepare for a road game against the Tennessee Titans.
"We didn't have any setbacks today, but it's still day-to-day," Burrow said. "I've learned through this process that it can happen at any time.
"It was good to get through this one. And that means we'll be stronger for this week."