Ja'Marr Chase, who says he and Joe Burrow are like "bread-and-butter," wants to keep slicing up defenses as a Bengal.
Last week Burrow said he wants to stick around with head coach Zac Taylor calling the plays. Chase, already the Bengals all-time playoff receiver heading into Sunday's AFC Divisional in Buffalo (3 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12), seconded the motion (and the slot) after Taylor got him open in last Sunday's Wild Card win over the Ravens for his ninth straight game with at least seven catches.
"I need to be here, too," said Chase after Wednesday's practice when he was asked if he wants to stay. "Yeah, man. Keep this going. Try to get as many AFC championships as we can get. Make it to the Super Bowl as many times as possible. Me and him, we're like bread and butter. As long as he's got me and I've got him I should be here for a good time."
Chase is starting to say out loud what he began thinking early on during his NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year season last year.
"Hell, yeah," said Chase when asked if he's the league's best receiver. "I just put up how many stats with four missed games? Who knows what would have happened.
"I've been thinking it. I'm not a cocky person. I'm humble. I know what I can do. I don't need to prove it. Everybody knows what I can do. Never a doubt in my mind."
Despite missing those four games, Chase reached 1,000 yards by ending the season with at least seven catches in each of his last eight games, tied for the fourth longest such streak within a season since 1970 and that includes playoffs. Like everything else since he came into the league, a span Pro Football Focus says he has more after-contact yards than any receiver but Deebo Samuel, he shook off his hairline hip fracture.
And he still leads the NFL with seven catches of 50-plus yards since the Bengals genuisly made him the fifth pick in the 2021 draft.
Now look at the playoffs.
When he set the NFL's rookie postseason record last year catching 368 yards, he became the Bengals all-time receiving yardage leader. When he caught nine balls for 84 yards against Baltimore last Sunday, it gave him a Cincinnati playoff record 34 catches and with a 90.4-yard average in five postseason games, he's one of five players in the Super Bowl era to average at least 90 yards in the postseason.
No wonder he wants to stick around. He was particularly pleased with how Taylor used him in the red zone on two consecutive snaps against the Ravens for the game's first touchdown to go up, 9-0. They will have to see red Sunday. The Bills, with the NFL's second-best red zone defense, challenge the Bengals' No. 5 in an area of the field that probably decides a game between two generational quarterbacks and two defenses better than people think.
On second-and-goal from just inside the 20 after a penalty last Sunday, Burrow kept on a run-pass option (RPO) and gunned a 12-yard seed to Chase in the slot.
"Zac did a good of that last game, moving me around and keeping me near the RPOs. That was pretty good," Chase said. "I like the game plans he's had, especially the last game. I think that's one of the best game plans he's had."
On the next play, Taylor lined up Chase in a bunch formation on the right and when Burrow found him over the middle, Chase spun away from a defender at the 1 for his fourth red-zone touchdown of the year. Here's another category Chase has dominated despite the injury. He tied with LSU buddy Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen for the NFL's third most red-zone catches (14) even though both of them played all 17 games. His 24 red zone targets were fourth most in just his 13 games.
"I really don't get too many one-on-ones (in the red zone)," Chase said. "Lately I feel like Zac is putting me in the slot to get me away from that in the red zone. It's really just a mixture. They've been using me the right way when we get in the red zone and 0I get opportunity. Joe doesn't change at all. He's the same person throughout the game. It doesn't matter what's going on."
Burrow has also been sweet in the red zone. Like the Bills' Josh Allen, he had 24 TD passes in there, second only to Patrick Mahomes But Allen has fie interceptions inside the 20, Burrow just one and that wasn't until Christmas Eve.
"The way they play defense they try to keep everything in front and limit the big plays," Burrow said. "And when you get down into the red zone that style of defense is really effective because you shorten the field and they can play a lot more aggressive in their zones. And … they have really good players as well."
Although according to PFF Chase had just eight more targets in the slot this season than last year he feel like he's been moved around more than that. And for the better.
"A lot more. It's opened it up a little bit," Chase said. "I know (I) start off the game in the slot. First four plays maybe. It makes the defense look for me. To see if Tee (Higgins) has got one-on-one. That's where we take the opportunity."
Taylor is just calling it the way he sees it with a guy who is calling himself the best in the league.
"He caught plenty of balls from the slot last week," Taylor said. "You never want to let teams off the hook by taking him from the outside and getting those 1-on-1 opportunities where guys get more on an island, but at the same time he's got the strength and the quickness and awareness to play inside as well. That's why he's such a rare player that way is there really isn't a weakness to where you put him. He does it all."
It took him awhile, but just ask him as the Bengals take their bread-and-butter into the Bills' vaunted red zone.