Ja'Marr Chase continues to go where no Bengals receiver has gone.
Except maybe Chad Johnson. The only man to win four straight AFC receiving yardage titles says he plans to show up at Paycor Stadium for Sunday night's (8:20-Cincinnati's Channel 5) conference showdown between the Bengals and Bills to watch Chase continue his assault on records everywhere.
No Bengal has ever caught 50 balls in five games like Chase has in the last five. In fact, according to Pro Football Reference, no one anywhere since the 1970 merger has caught 50 balls in their games three through seven.
And, the only man in history who averages more than his 87.7 yards per game is his LSU teammate Justin Jefferson and his 98.1 in 20 more games. Chase is ahead of Julio Jones and Hall-of-Famer Calvin Johnson on the list. In between wondering what havoc he and Carson Palmer could wreak "in this pass-happy era with defenders not being able to touch you," The Ocho, who wore Chase's No. 1 the night he was inducted into the Bengals Ring of Honor earlier this season. is ready to come through on Chase's request.
After Thursday's practice, Chase revealed to Bengals.com that his favorite touchdown celebration is when Johnson jumped on the network platform and took over the camera as he panned the crowd. Chase vowed to do it if Johnson paid his fine. Thanks to the Ocho, props can no longer be used and, anyway, he's all in.
"I still have 73% of my earnings cause I'm doing so well in other endeavors so paying it would be an honor," texted Johnson, who also enjoyed Chase's back flip after Sunday's 17-yard touchdown catch.
"Back flip was a childhood celebration so its always good to bring it to your roots."
PRATT-VISION: Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt and left end Sam Hubbard combined to make the biggest play of last Sunday's game when the 49ers drove to the Bengals 8 and were poised to tie it at 17.
Instead, on the next-to-last play of the third quarter, Hubbard shut off 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy's shovel pass to tight end George Kittle, and when Pratt caught Purdy in between trying to throw a pass instead of running it, he timed his leap and tipped the pass to himself.
All of which is no surprise to Hubbard.
"Germaine watches more tape than anyone in the league," Hubbard said after a practice this week.
It's always been that way, starting when Pratt came out of the 2019 draft and his North Carolina State and Bengals teammate Ryan Finley offered he knew of no one who watched more tape than Pratt. It's a little harder now with two toddlers, but his fiancé understands.
"I probably watch a couple of hours a day," Pratt says. "I watch some before I go home. When I get home, my son and daughter have a lot of energy and they want to play. After we put them to bed, I probably watch 30 to 45 minutes before we watch TV or go to bed."
Film study appears to be a direct correlation of Pratt's biggest plays coming at crunch time. Just look when his biggest plays have come. The last-snap pick on the goal line in the 2021 Wild Card win over the Raiders. His fourth-quarter strip of tight end Travis Kelce that stopped the Chiefs' go-ahead drive last season. A fourth-quarter pick of Tom Brady to seal a win in Tampa Bay last year.
"I think the game is simpler because you watch film and see the tendencies they like to do," Pratt says. "Everybody goes back to their roots in critical situations. They have routes or run schemes they're doing against us that week, but when the game gets tight they run their stuff they would normally call in certain situations."
From the formation and where the ball was, Pratt says he knew the 49ers would run a counter or the shovel pass at him.
"Sam did a great job picking off the shovel pass to Kittle going against the guard," Pratt says. "That messed up Purdy's read because I think Purdy pre-determined he was going to Kittle. He froze and I played it half-way, in between stopping him if he ran it or tried to throw it."
MORE JA'MARR: Quarterback Joe Burrow's two best throws last Sunday also resulted in the two best catches. One of them was his signature bench route to Chase in the last drive as the Bengals protected a seven-point lead. Chase was bracketed, but Burrow dropped it in between as Chase headed to the sideline and needed to toe-drag it to complete the 20-yard play.
Chase said he tried to deke a double move "and the cornerback bit on it a little bit and I just kept the angle high and Joe flattened it out a little bit," and he admitted their connection just gets better and better on that route when it comes to double teams.
But Chase says the catch of the game belonged to slot receiver Tyler Boyd and his 11-yarder off a Burrow heater during the two-minute drill at the end of the first half.
"I saw it in the game. TB didn't even know the hole was that tight," Chase said. "That was crazy (Burrow) got it in there. Man, that was a hell of a catch and throw right there. That small of a pocket. Those holes in the league are already small. That just shows you."
Chase was amused by some of the Bills saying they would have won the AFC Divisional in Buffalo last year if it hadn't snowed. "That's crazy," he said of his first and only snow game. "It's harder to play in the snow … I loved it, but I don't want to do it again."
Something he will do over and over again is do what he's been doing since he was in high school and that is right before he goes out on the field he pops on Kodak Black's "Str8 Bars," on his earphones. "It's still on my SoundCloud," he says. He may pump it up during warmups, but he says in those moments before the game, "I like to say calm."
EMOTIONAL MOMENT: What is expected to be Sunday's return to Paycor for Bills safety Damar Hamlin is not just emotional for his close friends like Boyd. Bengals safety Nick Scott played at Penn State with Hamlin's best friend from high school, Panthers running back Miles Sanders, and they would all hang out when Hamlin came up from Pittsburgh to visit.
"Good kid. He's a guy I would see around during the offseason working out, or on trips," Scott says "It hit a little close to home with someone I was friendly with. I reached out to Miles and tried to lift him up at that moment. I stayed away from Damar. I know how tough and busy it has been for him. But I'm looking forward to Sunday before the game and I can say, 'What's up?'"
Whether they know Hamlin or not, that's pretty much the way everybody in the league and the world feels as he comes back to the field where he was revived after a cardiac arrest ten months ago.
"I've heard from people it was tough on our city," Scott says. "Everybody is grateful to their trainers and our trainers and how they responded."
Like Sanders, Boyd grew up in the same area in Pittsburgh and he's been kind of a mentor to Hamlin. Hamlin followed him to Pitt to play college ball (not Penn State) and they've worked each other's camps, where he got to know and became friends with Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins.
"It's a memory I'll never forget, but I want to forget in the same sense," Boyd says. "Just to be able to see him back on the field is kind of emotional. Knowing he could have been playing his last game after a one-in-a million chance something like that could happen. He's a great person. He's loyal, strong, trustworthy, an all-around great guy … the kind of guy you want to be around."
Boyd has hardly been surprised how much Hamlin has given back since last Jan. 2 because he did long before that with his foundation geared to help kids from his area. He saw it working the camps and he sees it now in Hamlin's role as ambassador for CPR awareness.
"He overcame that and a lot of good came to him. He wanted to give something to the people who supported him," Boyd says. "He always did a lot of youth activities back home before that happened. Now he's in position to do whatever he wants. He can do even more great things. He's a great guy for the position."
They haven't talked this week, but last week Boyd told him if he wanted to get together before the game he was here. Hamlin has been active for just one game this season and when someone asked Boyd if he'd be both happy and mad if Hamlin tackled him, he said, "I'd just be glad we could be out there."