AFC North Title Taylor-Made On Fourth Down: 'Things Worth Having, You've Got To Go Get Them'

Tyler Boyd celebrated his go-ahead touchdown with The Paul faithful.
Tyler Boyd celebrated his go-ahead touchdown with The Paul faithful.

There was Ja'Marr Chase's game for the ages with two knee-buckling catches for 65 yards on the game's last drive. They not only gave him the NFL rookie record for yards in a season and a game (not to mention the Bengals' single-game record held by Chad Johnson), but also his team's first division title in six years.

(Team Chase, by the way, is now officially the '72 Dolphins and Team Sewell the '76 Bucs.)

There was Joe Burrow rewriting the Bengals record book like John Adams furiously retooling Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. In one afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium, Burrow broke Andy Dalton's single-season passing-yardage record and single-season touchdown passes record and everyone else's record for 300-yard games in a year.

And while he revised the record book, he wrote one Sunday that no Bengals quarterback ever penned when he led the Bengals to a division title in his second NFL season. Not Ken Anderson or Boomer Esiason or Carson Palmer or Andy Dalton had done that as a paid sophomore.

And there were the 64,505 faithful who seemingly willed it with each shriek and cheer.

But Sunday's 34-31 victory over the two-time AFC champion Chiefs belonged to head coach Zac Taylor. Usually a block of ice, Taylor paused with emotion before reacting to his first division title in his third season, replicating what Paul Brown and Marvin Lewis did.

It belong to him not just because no one gave his team a shot back in a spring Burrow was feeling his way around his freshly-repaired ACL and they were too busy panning the Chase pick at No. 5. They wanted Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell, instead.

Not because Sunday marked the first time in his 48 games as head coach the Bengals won a game they trailed after three quarters.

Not because his teams were 6-25-1 in the first two seasons and they are now 10-6.

But because he went for it.

Not once, but twice.

Not only did he go for it on fourth and a yard and fourth and an inch with 50 second left and the game knotted at 31. But he passed for it.

"To take this division. It's not just kick a field goal, and let Patrick Mahomes do something," said head coach Zac Taylor of the man with an NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP in his pocket.

"I've got a ton of faith in our defense to come up there, but the things worth having, you've got to go get them, and not wait for someone to give them to you, and I thought that's what our guys did today."

Taylor's aggressiveness could also be seen in how defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo put the biggest point of the game in a headlock. Holding on to a 31-28 lead, the Bengals had Mahomes staring at a third-and-five from the Bengals 16 with 6:09 left.

Anarumo sent a zero blitz, everybody but the cover guys, and Mahomes had to get rid of it so quickly that it bounced to wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

Field goal.

How many times had the 64,505 seen the Bengals let the game grab them instead of the other way around?

"I knew we were going to go for it," Burrow said. "Like I said, you've got Patrick Mahomes on the other side of the ball, and he's going to go down and win the game if you give him a chance. Unfortunately, we weren't able to finish the game the way we wanted to, but we still got it done."

It was brought up that Taylor set the tone for the season in the opener when he came out in the second half and went for it on fourth-and-one from the Vikings 25 on the way to a touchdown that put them up, 21-7.

But no doubt Taylor thought back to the overtime on this same field three weeks ago against San Francisco when he didn't put it in his best player's hand.

"I think he was just trusting us with the game on the line with the ball in our hands," Burrow said.

Chase: "It shows we're not afraid to make tough decisions in crunch time. And Zac did that."

You could hear the appreciation in the room next to the interviews, where the music blared and a cigar was smoked and AFC North Champs hats and T-Shirts were doled out.

"Anytime something goes wrong or there's an issue, it seems like people are calling for Zac's job or whatever," said defensive end Sam Hubbard. "He's done nothing but be a great leader and consistent force in this whole turnaround, and I really love Zac as a coach, and I'm thankful that he's here. Like you said, he was young. We're all young, we all grow and learn, and we all just wanted to be better, and it's just a consistent effort to be better for this team. It's what we've all done, and done together."

What they did together was go for it.

"I said it in the preseason. We were talking about playoffs, and I said that if we were going to go to the playoffs, the easiest way to do that was to win the division," Burrow recalled. "Everyone kind of laughed at us a little bit, but we knew what kind of team we had and the kind of guys in the locker room we had. We knew we could go out and do it."

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