The first quarterback in NFL history with multiple 400-yard passing games in a season against the same team (Baltimore Ravens), Joe Burrow and the high-flying Cincinnati Bengals’ offense couldn’t have handpicked a better time to have their best showing of the aging season. A 20-point rout of their AFC North divisional foe that has placed them a game up on the Lamar Jackson-less Ravens, Burrow’s performance and his group of elite castmates have provided a larger picture into just how impactful both Burrow and the high-octane Bengals offense can be when the playoffs roll around in a few weeks.
A team that has enjoyed its fair share of ups and downs throughout their 9-6 campaign, it’s about how you play in late December and into the New Year that justifies the type of football team you’ll be when thrown into the postseason fire. While the Bengals entered Sunday’s showdown losers of two of their last three games, including a backbreaking loss at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers in overtime two weeks ago, on the shoulders of Burrow, Zac Taylor’s Bengals have found themselves firing on all cylinders as we move closer to 2022.
A roster scrambling for production just a few short seasons ago, the influx of talent around Burrow has introduced one of the NFL’s premier offensive groups absolutely no defense wants to face during the back end of the season. An organization that has failed to finish above .500 since 2015 and on the heels of a 4-12 campaign in Burrow’s injury-shortened rookie season, the skill sets of Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, and 2021 first-rounder Ja’Marr Chase has introduced a core group of weapons rivaled by few in football. While Burrow was otherworldly against Baltimore, tossing for a gaudy 525 yards (fourth-most ever in a single game), it was the play of his aforementioned arsenal of weapons against a stingy Ravens defense that headlined the early slate of games.
Although it wasn’t arduous to predict the Bengals would reap the reward of re-pairing Burrow and Chase from the most dominant offense in college football history (2019 LSU Tigers), the early success and continued, improving rapport of Burrow with his former collegiate teammate has opened up the seams for guys like Higgins and Boyd to face a multitude of one-on-one matchups—inviting nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators.
While any of those wide outs have the ability to take over a game every time they step out on the gridiron, it was the 6-foot-5 presence in Higgins that proved to be the poster child of production during Burrow’s aerial barrage of the Ravens’ secondary on Sunday. A 12-catch, 194-yard performance capped with two visits to paydirt, despite enjoying a career day, it failed to overshadow the 125-yard showcase from Chase and an 85-yard day for Boyd, who averaged nearly 30 yards a catch. A group of perimeter talents each with their own unique, specialized skill sets presents an impossible task to cover when each is healthy and Burrow is presented with time to scan and progress through his reads inside the pocket.
22 eyes aren’t enough, and that’s without accounting for tailback Joe Mixon. Among the league’s top ball-carriers that entered the week slotted third in football in total rushing yards, his versatile, nearly positionless skill set presents a Weapon X Burrow has leaned on heavily when teams bring bodies out of the box to account for the flare outside.
An offense that has scored 30 or more points on six separate occasions this fall, consistency will remain king if the Bengals look to rid their playoff drought and earn their first playoff victory since 1991. One of the league’s most exciting young offenses whose best could lie years down the road, the arrival of Burrow and his ensemble of playmakers have welcomed the future to the present day—a more than overdue embrace that will look to last for seasons to come in Cincinnati.