Skip to main content

Bengals' Record-Breaking Duo Mans Up In Clutch: 'That's Why We Picked Him'

Ja'Marr Chase helped lead the Bengals to No. 1 in the AFC North Sunday
Ja'Marr Chase helped lead the Bengals to No. 1 in the AFC North Sunday

So, this happened:

A week after Joe Burrow threw for the fourth most yards of all-time, he found Ja'Marr Chase enough for the 14th most prolific receiving game of all-time.

Duos always practice throwing against air instead of defenders. These guys throw on history and so it was that nearly two years after they won an undefeated national title in college, they conspired on Sunday to take down the AFC North and the two-time AFC champion Chiefs while they were at it.

"Everything is overwhelming right now. I'm excited, but overwhelmed," Chase said as the smoke cleared from his 266 yards in the 34-31 Paul Brown Stadium win at the gun.

Join the club.

He had just been asked to reflect on passing Bengals great Chad Johnson's club record of 260 yards. He probably didn't even know he had broken Buffalo Bills Jerry Butler's 42-year rookie record of 255. Or that it was the best game since the guy on the other side, the Chiefs' Tyreek Hill, had 269 against the Bucs last November.

Like Burrow said, Chase is a great guy to have on your team. He's great with faces. A friendly, bright and engaging guy. Even if he doesn't use names very often.

But he'll say the name of Patrick Mahomes and what really stunned him is that he ended the day with more receiving yards than the great Chiefs quarterback had passing.

By 266-259.

"Did I? What did he have? I don't think I did that. I did?" Chase exclaimed with a slip of the tongue. "Sorry. Excuse my profanity. That's crazy."


Perfect word on the perfect day. It's a good thing Burrow and Chase broke nearly every team record Sunday because who could blame head coach Zac Taylor for sitting everybody Sunday in Cleveland as the Bengals prep for their first playoff game in six years the weekend of the Jan. 15-16?

Chase is still a dozen yards shy of passing Johnson's season club record of 1,440 yards. With three touchdowns he tied tight end Tyler Eifert's 13 in the 2015 season. Only wide receiver Carl Pickens with 17 in 1995 has more.

"It's something I wrote down before the season, and came in here with that plan," said Chase of his famous mirror where he puts his goals, "and I'm going to stick with it. I still have a long way to go."

But depending how Taylor plays this week, those numbers may be in the rear view mirror. Like Burrow said Sunday about covering Chase one-on-one.

"More power to you and good luck."

And there you have the crux of Sunday's game. Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, former head coach and wily veteran of the league, had his guys the talk of the NFL until they ran into Burrow and Chase. In Kansas City's eight-game winning streak they had allowed more than 17 points just once and the Bengals did that in the last 17 minutes of the first half.

He played it as you would expect with a secondary that has a sterling man-to-man coverage reputation. He blitzed when he needed a stop. He blitzed so much that Taylor felt like the Chiefs brought the maximum of the "zero blitz," on what seemed like every snap.

It might have worked if not for the almost supernatural thing Burrow has going with Chase. The Chiefs sacked Burrow four times, hit him six more times on top of that, ripped off his name plate and drove him out of the game when they hurt his good knee.

"I saw it kind of hanging on by a thread going into halftime, but I didn't know it got ripped off in the middle of the game," Burrow said of his good name.

Forget the 72-yard Next Gen touchdown run that heaved life back into them down 14-0. Or even the 69-yard touchdown two minutes or so into the second half that got everyone believing.

But look what they did against the blitz in that last desperate drive for both teams tied at 31 and the AFC North up grabs in weather that dipped to freezing. In the coldest game Burrow and Chase ever played together, they were stone cold killers. He went to Chase twice on the right sidelines working over cornerback Charvarius Ward for a total of 65 take-the-game-away yards.

On third-and-27, no less, from the Chiefs 41 with 3:19 left for 30 yards.

No field goal. No check down. Not with Chase one-on-one with Burrow and the Chiefs coming.

Burrow knew where he was going. Deep down the right sideline and Burrow got it there so Chase could reach it just over Ward's hands. Good coverage. Better pitch-and-catch.

"That's why we picked him," Taylor said of April's fifth selection in the draft that once upon a time was debated. "The chemistry that he and Joe have together has probably helped accelerate his performance. He's a great player for any team, but I think that certainly helps. The plays he made today, I cannot wait to watch them."

View the best game action photos from the Bengals hosting the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17 of the 2021 NFL season.

Here's what he'll see on the third-and-27:

"The defensive back was pressing me all game, trying to jump me and trying to slow me down at the line of scrimmage," Chase said. "My official release was supposed to be inside, but I took the outside release to make things a little faster. Made a little separation. Went off the ball with speed. It was just me and him catching the ball.

No check down. No field goal. Mahomes may be famous for his no-look passes. These were two of Burrow's no-brainer passes.

"If you get one-on-one, I'm going to give him a chance," Burrow said. "It doesn't matter the point of the game, situation, third-and-one ... If he gets one-on-one, I'm going to give him a shot."

That put the ball on the Kansas City 11 and set up the day after New Year's Twilight Zone Marathon at the Chiefs 1.

But remember that 35-yarder with the pressure coming just a few minutes before. Ward again had good coverage. But Chase, who spends hours catching tennis balls, made this ball look like a balloon with a Pro Bowl snatch over Ward and he kept the ball outstretched dancing down the sidelines.

"They were playing man coverage. I was just trying to make sure the defender didn't knock the ball out of my hands, so I was just moving it away from him," Chase said.

You'd have to say their chemistry is at full boil.

"It's about being consistent with your quarterback and making sure you have the right timing. It's on me to get open. They're always out there holding or pulling on you, but it's my job to get separation and catch the ball," Chase said. "I feel like he's even smarter than he used to be when it comes to blitz pickups and coverages. He just reads it so well. That's how you stay in the league as a quarterback."

But Burrow was raving about the first touchdown, Chase's 72-yard, 22-mile-per-hour blur that marked his third touchdown of the season of at least 70 yards and got the Bengals back into this thing. Forget the third-and-27. Without a score here, down, 14-0, this thing is as good as a prime time game in Cleveland next week.

And it wasn't against man or pressure. The Chiefs were inching toward Chase in a zone coverage, but he and Burrow found the hole. Burrow drilled about a 12-yard pass or so into Chase on the left side and Chase did the rest. He froze linebacker Nick Bolton and then just outran cornerback Mike Hughes cutting across the middle.

"He knows exactly where the ball is going to be, depending on the look the corner is presenting," Burrow said. "He made a bunch of great plays today, but the first touchdown was the best. It was 'cloud' (coverage) to the field, and he had the out route.

"He felt the cloud corner out there who was going to be able to intercept the ball, and he settled right in the zone. So I was able to stop him with the ball, and he did the rest."

Chase never hesitates giving credit to Burrow for helping him with film back in Baton Rouge. He taught him well.

"It was straight man," Chase said of the 35-yarder. "The two safeties weren't getting off the hash off today. That's how I scored another touchdown. They didn't get off the hash in Cover Two (zone)."

That was the 69-yarder that cut it to 28-24 and got the 64,505 believing again. Safety Daniel Sorensen just didn't get deep enough and Chase was gone down the left sideline and his buddy is 1-0 vs. Mahomes.

"I'm just excited that my name can even be mentioned in his presence," Burrow said. "He's been a great player since he's been the starter. He's been basically the best quarterback in the league, so if you can even mention my name with his name in the same sentence, that's exciting for me."

So that happened.


"If you're going to play him one-on-one," Burrow said, "a lot of times it's going to be a long day for you."