For all those Bengals fans who never got a chance to see Peyton Manning or Tom Brady quarterback in Paycor Stadium, Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd says you get to see both Sunday (4:25 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) when NFL passing yards and touchdown leader Patrick Mahomes bring his Chiefs to town to reclaim his late season magic that Joe Burrow and his Bengals swiped in two thrilling encounters back in January.
"It's going back to that quarterback fight. I look at it like Manning and Brady," Boyd said Monday. "You can't stop them. It comes down to whoever excels and takes advantage of their opportunities in drives and scores points. These are the types of games that we have to take care of the football and not turn it over."
In the Jan. 2 game at Paycor, the Chiefs brought in an eight-game winning streak and it was Burrow who played like an MVP when he navigated the Bengals through three 14-point deficits with 446 yards and four touchdowns in a walk-off win that gave the Bengals the AFC North title. Four weeks later in the AFC title game in Kansas City, they traded roundhouses as Burrow brought them back from 21-3 down and engineered the winning drive in overtime set up by strong safety Vonn Bell picking off Mahomes.
Neither has missed a beat. Mahomes has the Chiefs on a five-game winning streak and leads the NFL with 29 touchdown passes, 3,585 passing yards and 326 passing yards per game.
While the Bengals have won five of the last six, Burrow is tied for second with Buffalo's Josh Allen for 23 touchdown passes and is third with 3,160 passing yards in a season he tied Kurt Warner for third place in NFL history when he passed for 10,000 yards in his 36th game. Mahomes has the record for fastest to 10,000 in 34 games.
Boyd, a child of the first decade of the 21st century dominated by Brady and Manning, smiled when someone asked which one is Brady and which one is Manning.
"It's Burrow and Mahomes. I wouldn't compare them," Boyd said. "Those are two guys with records for fastest two quarterbacks to reach 10,000 yards. It's hard to stop Burrow and hard to stop Mahomes. At the end of the day, Burrow is two up. Whichever one you want to pick, whoever got the most wins, there you go."
Mahomes, 27, has got Burrow, who turns 26 the day after the Bengals play the Browns the week following the Chiefs, when it comes to late-season wins. He's riding a 26-game winning streak in November and December and he's 13-3 on the road in November and December games with the last loss coming in Nashville in November of 2019.
Burrow is working on a legacy of his own. If you count playoffs, he's 12-5 in November, December and January, 6-3 at home and hasn't lost on the road in those months since he was a rookie and is coming off a win in Nashville.
For the record, Brady is 2-1 at Paycor, Manning was 3-1 and Burrow is 2-0 vs. Mahomes.
CHASE UPDATE: Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, who torched the Chiefs for an NFL rookie-record and Bengals-record 266 yards at Paycor, could make his return from a hip injury against them after a four-game absence. Head coach Zac Taylor offered no clues Monday, but is cautiously optimistic after he returned to practice last week, but only in limited fashion after not going on four-week injured reserve.
"I think we'll all feel better about a guy coming off an injury who's actually had a week of practice," Taylor said. That's what you get to do with the those IR guys often times, I know he's a week earlier than that, but you get the 21-day window to get him back into the feel of things before putting them back out there on the game field. I feel like we've handled this the right way."
Taylor gave the Bengals Monday off in addition to the regular Tuesday off, but Chase has been grinding it with coach Joey Boese's strength and conditioning staff. Taylor's not sure if Chase is going to be full go when Chiefs prep begins Wednesday.
"That's hard for me to say today," Taylor said Monday. "He continues to do his workouts with Joey and the training staff. Today is only Monday, so again he did some stuff today. Tomorrow I think they will back him down some to give him the best chance to do as much as we feel comfortable with him doing on Wednesday."
Taylor also said running back Joe Mixon is making progress while still in concussion protocol.
BELL RINGS: Vonn Bell, the man who made the pick of Mahomes to put the Bengals in the Super Bowl, has to make sure Mahomes doesn't recognize him Sunday. Disguising coverages was a big factor in holding Mahomes without a touchdown in both second halves.
"Him and Joe, you can't give them the answer to the tests early (in the play) and let them figure out in their late progression reads," Bell said Monday. "But with (Mahomes), he can make every throw so if you're in Cover-2 or 2-high, you've got to get to your landmark because he can make that throw (over the defense). So, being on landmarks is critical because he can extend plays very well and (receivers) know how to create and get open throughout zone coverages and get open. So, the plaster rules down the field (apply). You've got to be on your landmarks and those are going to be very pivotal going against him, for sure."
Bell made two of the biggest plays of the two games, counting the game at Paycor when he busted downfield to break up a bomb to wide open Tyreek Hill. If anyone knows how big this game is, Big Game Vonn Bell does.
"Just going against him, he's one of the best in the league and what a challenge," Bell said. "It's hyping it up so, our guys are going to be ready, for sure. Nothing much needs to be said. We know what lies ahead of us. There's a lot at stake and guys are going to be pumped, for sure. It's going to be a big weekend and it's a 4:25 game so it's a big-time game with big-time atmosphere. It's going to be playoff atmosphere from here on out. If you need to get revved up, you need to do a self-evaluation with yourself."
MORE TITANS WIN: When they watched the tape of Sunday's 20-16 win in Tennessee, both Taylor and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo were extremely impressed with how the Bengals tackled. Just one miss, Anarumo said. NFL leading rusher Derrick Henry still leads the NFL in yards after contact with 891 yards, per Pro Football Focus. But not many Sunday after the Bengals held him to 38 yards on 17 carries. PFF had him for 47 YOC, but most of those were on his 69-yard screen pass.
Anarumo had his guys for one missed tackle with slot cornerback Mike Hilton leading the charge. The Titans were running heavy personnel, a scheme in which the slot usually isn't on the field.
"They hadn't done as much 13 personnel. Three tight ends, one back, one wide-out. And that was a little bit of a plan for (against) us," Anarumo said. "They were getting in it to throw it. Like opening up and not getting in a traditional 13 so after a while I just said, 'Screw that, let's just play sub' and then Mike did Mike things. He plays like a linebacker. Everybody knows his blitzing prowess but he's just fitting in the box some of these runs, he's like a linebacker."
And there was something that PFF just couldn't rate. The attitude that guys like Bell and Hilton and nose tackle D.J. Reader brought.
"Someone made a play on Derrick Henry and I guess he got up and said, 'Who are you?'" Bell recalled. "And DJ stepped up and was like, 'You know who I am.' I love it. 'You know who I am, too.' That's the backbone of the defense, man. We're glad he's back and you see the significant difference just (with) his presence and he's just a dominant force. I'm glad he's on my team, for sure."
A day later, Hilton, who PFF rated their best run defender Sunday (tackle B.J. Hill was the top defender and rookie cornerback Cam Taylor Britt the top cover player) was still getting rave reviews. Anarumo, a hopeless Yankees fan and baseball guy, gave Hilton the ultimate Yankees fan compliment when asked what Yankee Hilton would have been.
"He'd be like a Thurman Munson," Anarumo said of the late great Yankees captain. "A gritty, back in the day catcher. Getting dirty, mask sideways."
ROOKIE EYE-CATCHER: Taylor-Britt's coverage, eight tackles and fabulous forced fumble on Henry from behind on an all-out rundown at the goal line has put him into contention with left guard Cordell Volson for Bengals Rookie of the Year.
"Just answering the bell. Showing up on a week-in and week-out basis," Bell said. "Throwing his stuff in the pile. He's not afraid of nothing. That's the great thing about him. He's a sure tackler. He's listening with open ears. He just keeps on getting better. Just keep on striving in that direction."
Taylor: "That gave us a chance. It didn't go our way, but it's an example of a guy not giving up on a play and giving us an opportunity … When he's on the grass, he's on the ball. He's an extreme competitor and you can feel that energy."
APPLE OF THE EYE: There should be plenty of Eli Apple positivity around The Web this week. Not only has he played his No. 20 off since fellow starting Chidobe Awuzie went down, but it was his one-on-one tackle of the uber-slippery Tyreek Hill on the goal line as the first half ended in the AFC title game that turned the thing.
"Huge. Just to stop their momentum. I think if they score there, it really makes it hard," Anarumo said. "So the fact we had a positive play, forced a field goal and came out in the second half and we stopped them right away, now we have the momentum. We went down and scored. I just think the flip started with that play. The rest is history as they say. It was a big play."
IN ABSTENTIA: Boyd had 12 catches for 140 yards in Chase's absence, but he supplied some clutch catches in the last two wins. So did everybody, really, as Burrow pretty much spread the wealth during a 3-1 run. Except, of course, for wide receiver Tee Higgins, working on back-to-back 100-yard games during a four-game stretch he has 28 catches for 371 yards. Tight end Hayden Hurst has 17 catches for 182 and the four running backs have combined for 28 catches for 282 yards and each had one catch of at least 24 yards.
"At the end of the day, the offense is going to be the offense," Boyd said. "We're going to call the same things if Chase was in and if he wasn't in, just guys may be in that position. We all take our fair share of switching and moving around on offense, but at the end of the day, we're going to call up and dice up the same plays. Chase is just on another level that when he gets that ball in his hand, it's all said and done."