Even though it was the first win of the Joe Burrow Era for the Bengals, it was just like the old days for both of them on a day of history and heroics at Paul Brown Stadium.
Among the 6,243 fans spread out on the river Sunday were Burrow's parents as well as his best friends and favorite targets from down the road at Athens High School, the twin tight ends and lifelong Bengals fans Adam and Ryan Luehrman, along with their parents.
They saw Joey Burrow do what he did back in the day when he presided over the kind of a swashbuckling offensive effort the Bengals haven't seen since before the buddies were born, coolly lining up 36 darts and hitting 25 of them for 300 yards on the same button he hit two touchdowns that were taken from him on Sunday.
With Burrow becoming the first rookie quarterback to fire up three straight 300-yard games and just the second Bengal quarterback ever to do it, the Bengals racked up 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing for just the fourth time and first time since Boomer Esiason did it three times in the rollicking '80s. The number was 505, their first 500-yard day in four years.
That's why in a matter of seven days the Bengals offensive line went from being the goat by allowing eight sacks to getting a game ball with one sack for no yardage.
That's why Bengals running back Joe Mixon was able to become the first Bengal since Corey Dillon 19 years ago to rush for two touchdowns and catch another on a day he rushed for 151 yards.
"Everything on offense was working today, so it allowed the play action to be effective," Mixon said. "Even in drop-back today, the O-line was stoning them at the line (of scrimmage) and giving me a lot of time. It was really awesome today."
Burrow had been averaging 47 throws a game. Far too many. On Sunday they kept it to 36 because they were able to run it 30 times counting the three jet receiver sweeps by Tyler Boyd (four yards), Tee Higgins (13) and Alex Erickson (seven). Mixon lugged it 25 times for the sixth time in his career. The Bengals are 3-3 when he does.
Alex Redmond, their third starting right guard in four games, helped. He always brings a certain aggressiveness and physicality and that had been missing in some key moments in the first three games. You could see his contribution when he helped spring Mixon's killing 23-yard touchdown run on third-and-one midway through the third quarter that gave them that insurmountable 11-point lead.
Redmond shot from right guard to push the tackle to the left as Mixon cut back to the right before making safety Josh Jones whiff badly at the second level.
"When you think about it, the receivers on the perimeter, those guys did a hell of a job," Mixon said. "The tight ends, the offensive linemen. Doing a great job just being physical."
In that last drive that killed the clock for the final field goal, left tackle Jonah Williams led Mixon on a 21-yard Green Bay Packer sweep. Boyd and tight end Drew Sample combo blocked on the right edge to allow Mixon to slice through them for eight yards and a first down, forcing the Jags to call that first timeout and begin the countdown to Burrow's first win.
Balance. Play-action. The Bengals were able to score 33 points and Burrow was able to complete 69 percent of his passes even though A.J. Green caught their first play of the game for three yards and that was it even though the guy that was shadowing him, first-round pick C.J. Henderson, left early.
"He's not a rookie. I don't even think like that," head coach Zac Taylor said of Burrow. "He doesn't think or act like a rookie. He's in command, and guys believe in him. He's become a real leader on the football team."
Indeed, there were a lot of heroics Sunday, but there was no question Burrow was the icy conductor. After a holding call wiped out his drop-a-dime-third-and-six 16-yard touchdown pass to Boyd in the left corner of the end zone that would have given the Bengals a 7-0 lead early, he was high-fiving the offensive line after Mixon's first big run.
"I was just trying to give the O-line some juice," Burrow said. "I always try to bring some excitement and some energy to the offense. They played great all day, and I was just trying to celebrate with them."
Not long after that, he couldn't believe it when what should have been another touchdown pass bounced off Sample's face mask into the hands of linebacker Myles Jack for a red-zone pick.
But on his next snap he went to Sample for 23 yards to ignite that huge drive that tied the game at 10 with 56 seconds left in the first half.
"I'm not going to let a play that someone did or didn't make affect my decision-making," Burrow said. "I have faith in all our receivers, so if the defense shows me one thing, I'm going to throw it to the spot I'm supposed to and our guys are going to make plays for me. I have faith in all our guys."
Burrow finally got that first touchdown pass on a nine-yard swing to Mixon down the right sideline as the first-half clocked to a minute. As they broke the huddle, Burrow kept Mixon behind for a second to tell him something. Seconds later there was Mixon leaping over cornerback Chris Claybrooks at the 2 and he was in.
"I'll leave that on the field," Burrow said. "I think it helped him score though."
He was smiling. It was a day for smiling. When Burrow glanced at the clock as the Jags lined up the on-side kick with 12 seconds left, the kid that had waited a lifetime for his first NFL win said to back-up Ryan Finley, "That seems like a long time."
But there didn't seem to be any time to savor No. 1 because the Ravens loom on the road. Mixon gave his game ball to Taylor. Burrow is looking to use his again.
"It's going back in the ball bag," Burrow said. "You only get so many great (balls and) I'm very particular about the balls that I throw, so it's going right back in the game ball bag. I'll be using it again."