GLENDALE, Ariz. _ Bengals Pro Bowl quarterback Joe Burrow looked more like his swashbuckling self Sunday here at State Farm Stadium as he bobbed and weaved to that must-win he talked about last week with three touchdown passes to his old buddy, record-setting wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase in a 34-20 victory over the Cardinals.
Chase's Bengals-record 14th catch from three yards out with 7:54 left gave them an 11-point lead and broke Carl Pickens' 25-year-old record. Burrow was able to sit in the pocket, drive the throw, and find Chase on the back line of the end zone.
Chase added another catch to close out with 15 for 192 yards, his third highest career yardage output. Burrow had a vintage 108.1 passer rating with 317 yards on a razor 36 of 46.
Burrow's deft move in the pocket that extended a third down resulted in Chase's red zone touchdown on their first drive of the game. Then on the third snap of the second half, Burrow unfurled his longest pass and Bengals' longest play of the year, a 63-yard dime dropped over Chase's helmet that gave them a 24-14 lead.
At 58 yards in the air, it was also the longest air of his career.
And he went play-action to make it happen, faking to running back Joe Mixon behind a double tight-end formation.
Later he woke up the echoes with a 10-yard scramble up the middle and then how else could he punctuate it?
But the Bengals needed a fourth-and-one stand late in the third quarter and a crushing pick-six from cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt late in the first half to fend off the pesky Cards.
Leading, 24-20, Burrow threw an interception but it was only because wide receiver Trenton Irwin slipped running his route. And that was the only thing Irwin did wrong in replacing the absent Tee Higgins with a career-best eight catches for 60 yards.
But on fourth-and-one when Cards quarterback Josh Dobbs tried to keep it, linebacker Germaine Pratt filled the gap. In the last six minutes, right end Trey Hendrickson's 2.5th sack of the day forced a Dobbs fumble that led to a Sam Hubbard recovery and Evan McPherson's 40-yard field goal. Pratt later added an interception on fourth down with five minutes to go.
With the Bengals winning the toss and deferring, they did a great job deflating the last seven minutes of the half when they began a drive at their own 29. But Cincinnati's 17-14 lead is not how they drew it up.
Burrow sifted all five passes in the drive, the last one an old-fashioned Seamless Joe bullet over the middle against the blitz on third-and-eight for a 14-yard gain to wide receiver Tyler Boyd that put the ball on the Cards 21 with 2:32 left in the half.
They then gave the ball to Mixon (a season-high 81 yards on 25 carries) six straight times, but on the last two they couldn't push it in from the 1 and gave the ball back to the Cards with 1:33 left.
But that was enough for Dobbs to throw his first interception of the season when the Bengals zone-blitzed with Hubbard dropping. Dobbs threw it to Taylor-Britt over the middle and he ran it in from 11 yards out for their first pick-six since Mike Hilton did it in 2021 against Pittsburgh.
Burrow finished the half 19 of 24 for 153 yards and a touchdown and a Joe-like 107 passer rating that signaled the karma was back..
The Bengals flipped the script and did the exact opposite of last week's first drive in Tennessee, even facing their first third down inside the opposing 10. But this time they converted it for their first touchdown of the first half this season on Chase's first touchdown of the season.
And it came on third-and-three when Burrow made a vintage move out of the pocket when he felt pressure from inside the right tackle, then turned his hips, and looked left before zipping it to Chase between two defenders in the back of the end zone. As Chase did his first Griddy of the season, Burrow went to the sideline seven of his first seven for 56 yards after carving up the Cards' signature zone.
After the second straight third-and-out by the defense (Hubbard and safety Dax Hill set the tone wrapping up Conner up for two yards on first down), Burrow again got them inside the ten without a third down try. Chase got one hand on a low ball underneath the coverage at the left pylon but couldn't reel it in on second down and on third down Burrow got sacked for a 15-yard loss and McPherson hit a 40-yarder to give the Bengals a 10-0 lead late in first quarter.
Irwin ignited the drive with a 28-yard punt and Chase had one of those creative 19-yard gains when Burrow rolled out the other way after some play action.
But the defense gave up the lead on the next two series and the Bengals fell behind, 14-10 with 8:28 left in the first half with some of the same problems that nagged them the week before in Tennessee.
Speedy Cards wide receiver Hollywood Brown separated for two third downs, the last one a 25-yard touchdown pass on third-and-nine that Dobbs threw lovely over the shoulder as Brown got a step ahead of backup slot cornerback Jalen Davis as the Bengals were responding to the absence of No. 1 cornerback Chidobe Awuzie.
Then rookie punter Brad Robbins' 59-yard punt was spoiled by unnecessary roughness call on linebacker Devin Harper in his Bengals debut and the Cards wasted no time capitalizing on the field position. Conner ripped off a 35-yard run with spinning moves that resulted in three missed tackles to set up the go-ahead 14-10 touchdown moments later.
Hendrickson was questionable, but not on the second snap of the game when he split a sack with safety Dax Hill on one of Dobbs' play-action bootlegs that Hill read perefctly.