DETROIT - Jerry Rice is one of the top Bengals Killers of all-time whose very name sends chills through every Bengals fan as the MVP of the Super Bowl the 49ers beat them with 34 seconds left.
But once they hear Bengals running back Joe Mixon invoke him in reference to teammate Ja'Marr Chase after Sunday's 34-11 victory over the Lions, the name Jerry Rice, the San Francisco Treat, may finally bring a smile to Bengaldom.
"I know he's young but he doesn't play like a rookie. If you look at Jerry Rice, that's what made him great," said Mixon, a Bay Area native. "He could catch the ball, take a slant to the house and then what made him great is when his teammates were running with the ball, he's running with them blocking. I see him with those traits. I was proud how he performed today."
Chase, the Bengals' big-play wide receiver, popped two more at Ford Field Sunday and to show you hot everyone's rookie of the year is, they weren't even his biggest play of the day. That would be his block that sprung Mixon loose on the last five yards of a 40-yard touchdown catch-and-run on fourth-and-one.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, who won the Heisman Trophy throwing 20 touchdowns to Chase long before Sunday, has seen him do many things.
But not the block he put on Lions safety Will Harris. Burrow had a bird's eye view as he ran behind the play. Chase cut across the field to Mixon's side in the flat and then he had to run and catch up and get in front of Mixon and engage Harris at the 5, shoving him from a back pedal into oblivion.
"I told him after that, not a lot of top five picked receivers do that," said Burrow, referring to the fifth pick in the draft the Bengals spent on him. "That's the kind of guy he is. He's just going to keep making plays like that. I mean that's an unbelievable play. He got Joe in the end zone. Not a lot of guys want to make that play, and he does."
Chase, wearing a Blue Jays World Championship hat only because he likes the way it looks, admitted it had been his best block ever. He had his 34-yard catch with 17 seconds left for his obligatory end-of-half catch to set up a score and a 53-yard catch later to set up a touchdown.
But he enjoyed the block better.
"Because it gave effort," Chase said. "You see a lot of effort on that play. Joe Mixon was probably maybe seven-10 yards in front of me and I saw him, only one person ahead of him so I wanted to make it easier for him to score by making an easy block."
The Bengals offense made it look frighteningly easy in the second half. So easy that head coach Zac Taylor wasn't admiring those 398 yards on the stat sheet. He was wondering what might have been if they didn't have a first half of three straight three-and-outs, an interception and two holding calls.
"I was so mad with the first half, the execution stuff we needed to score more points early," Taylor said. "I went to halftime with a bad taste in my mouth. Sitting there with 10 points. We need to start faster and we need more production in the first half. We need to be able to get a three-score lead going into halftime. Then come out blazing in the second half. Those last possessions we scored points and scored every possession in the second half, that's a statement we want to have."
It's time to take note of this offense, first half hiccups and all. After Sunday's 97-yarder, Chase is on pace to become their first 1,500-yard rusher or receiver. Burrow is on pace to become their first quarterback to throw 40 touchdown passes after he sifted three on Sunday. Mixon is on pace for their first 1,300-yard rush season in 15 years after 63 of his 94 yards came in the second half clock grinder.
"If we eliminate some of those things that happened in the first half, we probably score 50 points today," Burrow said. "But it's the NFL. I'm never going to be upset about a 34-point game when you're winning by as much as we did, but we do have to get some things corrected. And when we do that, it's going to be scary. "
Mixon was reminded after Sunday's game that long before the draft, he tweeted about wanting the Bengals drafting Chase.
"I just knew what he could mean to our team," Mixon said. "All we needed was one more receiver to really take this to the sky's the limit. You've got me back there, you've got Joe Burrow throwing the ball, you've also got Tee (Higgins) and Tyler (Boyd) out there and we have receivers to complement those guys on the outside. It was definitely a great pickup for us. Everything we saw from him in college, that's what we're getting from him today."
What they got from his Sunday was another bailout as they staggered to the end of another first half. Up 7-0 when they got the ball back at their own 24 with 81 seconds left, the offense hadn't done a thing since an opening drive touchdown and they weren't doing much here on third-and-10 with 23 seconds left from their own 40.
Until the Lions tried to blitz. That took them out of a deep Cover Two zone that had blanketed Chase on two catches for just ten yards. But Burrow saw Detroit crowd the line with seven players and he knew he was getting rid of it quickly because he had the numbers in the back end.
"I was really hoping they did what they did. They brought pressure and we got it picked up up front," Burrow said. "We made some good calls. I knew I had one on one. I knew right where I was going. That was big."
No question he was going to Chase. And there was no question in Chase's mind he was going to beat rookie cornerback Jerry Jacobs down the left sideline before the safety could get over now that they were no longer playing two safety high.
"Joe saw the one high and Joe just threw it up to me to beat the DB, the corner just bailed," Chase said. "I tried to find his blind spot and just attack it and get in front of him. Joe put up a good ball."
Try a perfect ball and the 34-yarder set up Evan McPherson's 38-yard field goal on the last snap of the half for a 10-0 lead.
"He's a huge part of our offense. He's been taking the top off. He can take a slant and go to the crib. He can do whatever we much pretty much want him to do," Mixon said. "He can block. It makes my job easier and it helps out in the run game because when he takes the top off defenses they have to respect that. They have to back up. I know they tried him a few times and when they try him you see what happens. He thrives on those opportunities and that's what makes him a great player."
Chase added the 53-yarder in the third quarter giving him an NFL-best five catches of at least 40 yards. He's looking to become the first Bengal to average 20 yards per catch since Eddie Brown in Jerry Rice's Super Bowl MVP season.
"He sees something in me and he expects a lot from me," Chase said of Mixon. "If he is expecting a lot then I'm sure everyone is expecting a lot of themselves. But I've got to step on people's necks and we all have to step on people's necks when you have to. I think we did a good job of that today."
Now after taking care of the neck this Sunday, they have to take care of the head next week. The Ravens sit in first place of the AFC North, a game ahead of the Bengals.
"They're Baltimore," Burrow said.