Not only is the Bengals' 41-17 win over the Ravens a breakthrough victory that puts them at the top of what we can now officially be called the Ja'Marr AFC Playoff Chase, it puts them in a tie for first place in the AFC North and comes on the heels of Baltimore's 65-6 domination in last year's two games.
"It's a different team," said head coach Zac Taylor. "We're allowed to build and improve, and we just have a different mentality right now. We've done a lot of different things to get to this position, and I've given out a lot of tough speeches over time about great things to come and [to] keep working. And you hope and pray that the team believes in that. That's the foundation of what we're building, and this is the result. This is their moment. Everything we've talked about, we've earned. We're starting to earn respect, but we still have a long way to go."
A win over the Jets in New York next Sunday with the Ravens on their bye would put the Bengals in first place all by themselves in November for the first time since the 2015 AFC North title run.
Quarterback Joe Burrow, who came into the game as the AFC's leading passer, put up career-high 416 yards while gobbling up nearly 11 yards per throw on five passes of at least 26 yards. His yards per attempt for the season is 9.22, one percentage point better than Boomer Esiason's mark in his 1988 MVP season.
It came after he was hit 15 times last year in Baltimore, complete with two sack-strips. He lost one. The only free runners Sunday were his receivers over the middle.
"Obviously last year wasn't very fun. Today was a lot of fun," Burrow said. "Now it just really comes from preparation during the week and getting a lot of extra reps with the guys and our guys on the outside making plays. There wasn't a ton for me to do today apart from trying to protect the ball. It was putting balls in positions where our guys could go make plays."
- And that was after Ravens defensive tackle Calais Campbell spent the first half draped on Burrow. But Campbell and outside linebacker Tyus Bowser shared the only sack of Burrow on Sunday and that was in the second half during the Bengals' spate of 28 points in about 19 minutes.
"He played a great game today," Campbell said. "This might have been his best game as a pro. We made it hard on him early, and he made some adjustments and did what he had to do. You have to tip your hat off to him. His playmakers made plays for him, too. That team is talented. They have a whole lot of talented players all over the place, and today was their day. They played a good game of football. Obviously, we feel like we're a pretty good team, too. Today just wasn't our day. We didn't play to the level we are capable of playing. We have to be more consistent."
- Chase's 201 yards on eight catches was highlighted by his 82-yard slant-and-score burst on third-and-two working against Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey. Against their best cover cornerback in many one-on-one looks, Chase smoked Humphrey on 25 yards per catch. His 754 yards are the most by a rookie in his first seven games, more than 100 than the previous record Anquan Boldin set in 2003. The 82 is the longest catch by a Bengal since Brandon LaFell's 86-yarder in Houston in 2016 and it's believed to be the longest by a Bengals rookie since tight end Bob Trumpy's 80-yarder in first year of the franchise.
"I guess I'll look at the film and kind of figure it out. I think things just didn't go our way early," Humphrey said. "So, as Wink (defensive coordinator Don Martindale) says, it's not as bad as it seems; but right now, it seems pretty bad. So, I'll look at the film and kind of figure it out."
Burrow thought it pretty simple.
"I mean there were several times in the second half where that happened where there is zero check where he had Marlon Humphrey – who I think is the best corner in the league," Burrow said and (the Ravens) play that way because they have that guy to play a zero blitz and put him one on one, and Ja'Marr did a great job against him today. There are multiple times where he got that guy one on one and won his one-on-one matchup."
- Burrow had to laugh. It was National Tight Ends Day and he threw touchdown passes of 55 and 32 yards to tight end C.J. Uzomah.
"That's all I heard about," Burrow said.
Uzomah has now scored six touchdowns in nine games with Burrow.
"I had to make something happen," Uzomah said.
And don't forget Uzomah's fourth-and-one 36-yard play that won the opener.
"We just had a ton of confidence in him. C.J. started off last year with a bang in his first two games before he got hurt," Taylor said. "And it was hard to see in training camp how he was responding to that physically. But, he's found his spot. Joe has a lot of confidence in him, and he always makes plays when his number is called. He broke a bunch of tackles on both of his touchdowns. So, it was good to see C.J. do that. And it was 'national tight end day' today. So, that kind plays into it as well."
Uzomah chose to single out his fellow tight end Drew Sample after Sample fended off Campbell on Uzomah's 55-yard catch down the seam he sluffed off Humphrey for the final 20 yards. Yes, he was a bit stunned Humphrey was out there on him.
' I wasn't prepared for it, but it's national tight end day. You've got to make something happen," Uzomah said. "You can't let anybody else have all the fun. Even though I caught the touchdown, Drew had to block Calais Campbell one on one and did a hell of a job. If he didn't block him the way he did, Joe would not have been able to get the ball off. That touchdown is for Drew for sure. That block really helped me to get open."
- The defense was immense with a season-high five sacks of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, led by left end Sam Hubbard's career high 2.5. In compiling a 5-0 record against the Bengals, Jackson had been sacked just five times in the whole series. It also ties his career-high in a game.
"People are going to have to start noticing (Hubbard). He's a good pass rusher," said right end Trey Hendrickson, who now has 6.6 sacks this season after dumping Jackson in the middle of the torrid third quarter that forced a punt and more mayhem.
Jackson was just 15 of 31 passing after getting hit seven times in his first Bengals loss.
"They got a few sacks on us. We (got) one back. I feel like sometimes, I think that our pocket saved us from a sack or two. But like I said, they just played a good game today," Jackson said. "I don't want to say anything is not working; we were just passing the ball a little bit more today. They stopped us sometimes when we ran the ball, but they weren't just dynamic, just stopping us like that. We could have done better things out there on the field today. They did a great job, like I said, on defense – Cincinnati."
The Bengals came into this one giving up more than five yards per run against Jackson teams in those five previous games. On Sunday, Jackson still ran on them for 7.3 yards per carry, but he only ran it 12 times. And the difference this Sunday is the Ravens' two main running backs didn't do a thing. Le'Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman were a combined 19 yards on nine carries.