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Joe Burrow On The Eve of Another Postseason: 'These Moments Are Moments That You Remember'

Joe Burrow gets another chance against Ravens.
Joe Burrow gets another chance against Ravens.

When Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow makes his fifth postseason start Sunday night (8:15-Cincinnati's Channel 5) at Paycor Stadium in the Wild Card game against the Ravens, he does it as the most accurate passer in history.

Even cool Joey B Good had to pause a minute to let it sink in after Wednesday's practice. He goes into the offseason with a career completion percentage of 68.2, just ahead of fellow No. 9 Louisiana Legend Drew Brees at 67.7

"It sounds pretty good right now," Burrow said. "But hopefully I've got 10 more years to solidify that. Lot of throws to be had. That's something I've always prided myself on is my accuracy so I'm on the right page." 

It looks more and more like Burrow is not going to face Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, the one-time NFL MVP who led the Ravens to an 8-4 start before he injured his knee and missed the last five games of the season. Jackson didn't practice Wednesday and his backup, Tyler Huntley (shoulder) was limited.

The script may be flipped. The last time Paycor hosted a Wild Card Game against an AFC North rival, Bengals backup quarterback AJ McCarron nearly knocked off Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seven years ago.   

As Burrow moves within a game of Ken Anderson's club record for quarterbacking the most playoff games, he reflected Wednesday on why his juices are flowing now.

"It's do or die. It's where you like to be. In those moments is where I kind of make my best plays," Burrow said. "It's where I'm comfortable and these moments are moments that you remember.

"You don't always remember Week 6 games on the road. You remember these playoff games, these home night playoff games. We're excited, I know the fans will come out ready to go. That atmosphere on that Monday night game that we didn't unfortunately end up playing, that was the best atmosphere pregame that I've ever been a part of. We are going to need that again on Sunday."

Paycor that night against the Bills, he said, even had a better buzz than an LSU game.

"Ever, ever," he said of his lifetime.

The one thing that may even be better than being the all-time accuracy leader is even though Burrow lost the NFL completion percentage title he won last year at 70.4 to Geno Smith's 69.8, his runner-up 68.3 might have been even more impressive.

After Burrow sifted their blitzes and one-high safety looks last season, NFL defenses shifted their approach and gobbled up more space this season in a blanket of two-safety deep.

What happened last Sunday in the 27-16 win over the Ravens (and in the Oct. 9 loss in Baltimore) is a pretty good example and most likely a dry run of what we'll see this Sunday.

According to Next Gen Stats, first-year defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald has blitzed Burrow just seven percent of the time compared to predecessor Wink Martindale's 30 percent.

"They initially were blitzing a little more than expected in those first two quarters," Burrow said of last Sunday. "We had some success against it then they started doing what they did in the first game. They have a good plan, they always do. I have a lot of respect for the guys on the other side."

Burrow hasn't approached last year's numbers against the Ravens (he's passed for 432 against them in two games after hitting them for 941 last year), but it serves as a bit of a metaphor.

Burrow threw for fewer yards and had 1.5 fewer yards per throw this season, but the Bengals scored more points, he threw more touchdowns, fewer interceptions, the Bengals were better on third down (from 15 to three), better scoring touchdowns in the red zone (from 23 to five) and he was sacked ten fewer times this year.

It would seem that reflects better awareness of when and when not to take a sack, as well as a better understanding of give-and-take with an NFL defense.

"I would say that's fair," Burrow said. "Understanding the situation in your game and when you can and can't take certain chances depending on the score, the defense, how you move the ball, how you run the ball. It all plays into it. And we pride ourselves on being a very good situational football team. And I think that's why we won a lot of games. We've talked about it a lot. I would say as an overall unit and team we've taken strides this year in that way."

Quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher agrees, emphasizing what has improved for Burrow is simply his number of reps. The more games he plays, the more he can read.

"Joe is very smart. He's able to see a defense and diagnose defenses from the time he walks in the door," Pitcher says. "It's not like he discovered a brand new skill set he didn't have already. But I do think the more games you play, the more times you do play a specific team over and over and you get familiar with their scheme and the play caller, those things help you."

Burrow threw himself open like one of his receivers when he candidly admitted Sunday and again Wednesday that he simply wasn't his accurate self in the game set the accuracy record.

Weird, right?

But, that was just a by-product of a very, very weird game, weird for many reasons. Weird like the touchdown pass to wide receiver Tee Higgins where Burrow simply overthrew him at about the 5.

"Sometimes you just miss, man," Pitcher says. "Sometimes the ball comes out of your hand a little funny. We're lucky we've got a guy that does that one in a thousand throws and there are a lot of guys that miss more. Sometimes it happens."

Pitcher loves what happened within the next half-minute. Teams still zero blitz, not as much as last year, but the odds are still with Burrow he makes you pay in any man-to-man situation. The Ravens blitzed everyone, the Bengals picked them up and Burrow lofted a 26-yard touchdown pass down the same sideline where only wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase could leap and pull it away.

"It took him all of one snap to make up for it," Pitcher says. "Excellent memory, but a short memory."

In a portion of the season he says is made for memories, Burrow admits he flashes back to last year's playoff run.

But it's not to his wondrous throw to slot receiver Tyler Boyd as he was going out of bounds against Vegas or to his Galloping Ghost moves in the AFC title game or to Aaron Donald's last hit on him as the Super Bowl died.

"What stands out most about big wins is the locker room atmosphere afterwards," said Burrow as he tries to conjure up another run. "The camaraderie. The love everybody shows each other. That's why you play the game. That's what's best about winning."