After being informed that Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow had passed him not once, but twice with 525 yards in Sunday's 41-21 near AFC North clinching over the Ravens, Boomer Esiason sent Bengals.com a congratulatory e-mail.
"That's impressive! I'm happy for him. I think I told you back before the draft he's exactly what the Bengals needed. This is the tip of the iceberg…He's got so much more to accomplish. Who Dey!"
It was Norman Julius Esiason who had the team record with 490 yards on Oct. 7, 1990 in Anaheim, Calif., in a 34-31 overtime win over the Rams. It was Esiason who threw for 522 yards for the Cardinals in a 1996 game that had been the fourth most of all-time.
And keeping it on the set of The NFL Today, where Esiason has been a long-time host, Burrow broke the Cincinnati passing record that Giants quarterback Phil Simms set in 1985 with 513 yards in a Riverfront Stadium game.
ROLLING: The Bengals are rolling on a river at 9-6 and secured their first winning season under head coach Zac Taylor and first since 2015. But Taylor got right to the point when they got off the field Sunday and met in the locker room to dole out game balls to Vonn Bell, Burrow and his receiving corps of Tee Higgins (194 yards), Ja'Marr Chase (125) and Tyler Boyd (85). If things worked out, they could clinch the division with a win next week at PBS against the Chiefs.
The Bengals are only thinking about this Sunday. If they beat ether the Chiefs or win in Cleveland in the Jan. 9 finale, they have the title.
"Next week is going to be huge for us," Mixon said. "We're going to need it. Hopefully we can have a sellout crowd and the players will keep on putting on a show."
Taylor is trying to match Paul Brown and Marvin Lewis and win a Bengals division in his third season. Lewis, in 2009, is the only coach besides Taylor to sweep Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the same season.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, January 2, 2022 | 1 p.m. ET
"We've got kind of beaten up on over the last few years, so our guys just have all the confidence in the world right now," Taylor said. "And they're not done yet. We're 4-1 in the division right now, and we need to be better than that this year, quite frankly. We know how big of a test this Kansas City game is coming up for us this weekend. It's far and away the biggest game of the year for us. Our guys are going to be ready, and we're going to do a great job of getting rested, and getting our best focus. We've got a huge challenge coming to town, and our guys are going to be ready for it."
In the next to last game of the season, that '09 team clinched the AFC North with a 17-10 win over the Chiefs at PBS on 98-yard drive capped by Carson Palmer's six-yard touchdown pass to Chad Ochocinco on third down with 2:03 left.
But that was a different time. That was a four-win Chiefs team quarterbacked by Matt Cassel and coached by Todd Haley. These Chiefs are the hottest team in the league and quarterbacked by the great Patrick Mahomes, coached by Mr. Consistency in Andy Reid and have an all-world tight end in Travis Kelce, a guy no doubt looking at Mark Andrews' 125 yards against the Bengals Sunday.
"We know who's on the other side of the ball. They have a lot of all-stars, superstars, whatever you want to call them over there," Mixon said. "They know how to score a lot of points, but so do we. They get stops. So do we. We know what type of game it's going to be but at the same time, our focus is taking care of that football and being able to stack drives, and keep Patrick Mahomes off the field."
JOLTIN' JOE EYES PICK: Mixon scored a TD both running and receiving Sunday for the second time this season and has 13 rushing and three receiving and is one shy of wide receiver Carl Pickens' club record of 17 touchdowns in 1995.
Mixon chose the moment to pump up first-year running backs coach Justin Hill.
"It's a great feeling. As much as these accolades are coming, at the same time," Mixon said, "I want to give a special shout out to him because I feel like as much as people talk about or even me talk about the line, the tight ends, the people on the perimeter, I think Justin, he's excelled my game in so many ways, especially in being disciplined in my (running) paths, just with my eyes in tracks and things like that."
TOUGH FEELINGS: The Bengals' second straight decisive win over the Ravens before a Sunday's packed holiday weekend crowd of 63,922 at festive Paul Brown Stadium isn't the kind of score one would expect in a game breaking a first-place tie in the always taut, tight and tenuous AFC North.
It's the last place you'd think you'd see the Bengals' fifth most prolific game ever with 575 yards and the most in 31 years.
But their 41-21 win over Baltimore still had some division tough hard feelings. The Bengals didn't seem very pleased with Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale's comments last week when he was asked if he'd play the Bengals like he played the Packers in no-blitz zone that nearly pulled out a 31-30 loss with Green Bay last Sunday.
"Aaron Rodgers is a Hall of Fame quarterback, and I don't think we're ready to buy a gold jacket for Joe yet," Martindale said.
It seems harmless, especially if you went on to read the nice things he said about his receivers.
But not in the AFC North.
"I didn't think it was a necessary comment," Burrow said. "I wouldn't say I was offended by it. I mean, I'm in Year Two. Who knows what's going to happen down the road? But I didn't think it was a necessary comment."
Burrow, who became the first quarterback to go over 500 yards in more than two years with the fourth biggest passing day of all-time, didn't know he was a few yards shy of 500 until he went on the field for the last 3:24. And then, he thought they were going to run it until Taylor called passes on second and third down. And that improvised 52-yarder on third down to running back Joe Mixon beating the linebacker on what turned into the world's longest wheel route to get him to 500?
Was he thinking about Martindale on that one?
Burrow, wearing a Santa hat, twinkled like an elf.
"Maybe," he said.
As for Ravens head coach John Harbaugh he gave an answer like the shrug Burrow offered after his throw to Mixon, which was off one of the great scramble jobs.
"They call their own plays, and we call our plays," Harbaugh said.
Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen, a college teammate of Burrow, noticed the Bengals were going with an empty backfield in the final two minutes up 20.
"It's football. It is what it is. We'll see them again soon," said Queen, who had Burrow pretty well nailed. "I know what type of person he is. At the end of the day, he threw for a lot of yards, but I think he's happier just getting a win. That's the type of guy he is. He's not the type that's going to be overexcited about the things he does. It's all about the team and how they do."
Which is pretty much what Burrow said after the first 500-yard day in Bengals history.
"I think it means a lot to the whole team. It's not just a reflection of me," Burrow said. "It's a reflection of the offensive line, the receivers, the coaching staff and how we went out and executed today. So that's exciting."
Still, you've got to remember that Burrow was the quarterback last year when it kind of all started. Taylor chose to kick a field goal with 32 seconds left in a game the Bengals trailed, 27-0, and Martindale made a snippy comment about it that the Bengals also remembered.
Bengals edge Trey Hendrickson volunteered about Burrow, "I wouldn't go around pissing that guy off."
Asked if somebody got Burrow mad, Hendrickson said, "I read a couple of things, so, maybe."
View the best game action photos from the Bengals hosting the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16 of the 2021 NFL season.
HAIL HENDRICKSON: With at least a half sack in his 11th straight game, Hendrickson got a full one to pass Carlos Dunlap's 2013 record of 13.5 and now has 14. But then he nodded to Bengals director of media relations P.J. Combs in the media room before his post-game interview.
"Our franchise record is 22 set by Coy Bacon in 1976," Combs said. We have sacks going back to '76, but the league didn't start officially keeping sacks until 1982 and he does have the most since then for us."
So, officially it's the record. But unofficially, Hendrickson could care less.
"I don't play for those kinds of things," Hendrickson said. "I'm a product of this defense. I'm a product of good coaching. I'm a product of hard work. And anything that comes for me is just a byproduct of all those things. I know how much work my wife and I put in off the field. She's my rock and supporter. Franchise record or not, I'm very blessed to be here, to play in this defense. I'm ready to keep it rolling in the win column."
He's got his eye on the NFL record of 12 straight games with at least half a sack set by "The Freak," Jevon Kearse, 21 years ago. He's tied with the guy that comes in here next week, Chiefs tackle Chris Jones (2018), as well as Jared Allen (2010-11) and Shaun Ellis (2002-03).
"It's not just about me. You can't get sacks without coverage," Hendrickson. "So I can't say enough about the guys in the back end and even the guys I'm rushing with on the defensive line. You guys see a lot of one-man stats, but its 11 men collectively. They're giving me an opportunity to have success and I'm very thankful to be a part of this brotherhood."