Archdeacon: Chase’s record-setting day sparks Bengals in comeback victory

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) avoids Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Nick Bolton (54) for a 72-yard touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)
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Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) avoids Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Nick Bolton (54) for a 72-yard touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Credit: Jeff Dean

Credit: Jeff Dean

CINCINNATI – It was the only time all afternoon that Ja’Marr Chase wasn’t able to firmly grasp the opportunity at hand.

Thanks in a big way to his historic day – and, of course, another stellar performance by quarterback, Joe Burrow – the Cincinnati Bengals had outgunned the Kansas City Chiefs, 34-31, Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

In beating the best team in the American Football Conference, the Bengals had won the AFC North and made the playoffs for the first time in six years.

Chase, the rookie who’s having an All-Pro season, carried Cincinnati to victory with three touchdown catches among his 11 receptions. His 266 receiving yards were the most in a game by a Bengals receiver in the history of the franchise.

He had made spectacular catches against tight-covering Chiefs’ defenders and he’d had electrifying runs after his catches. He turned one routine play into a 72-yard touchdown jaunt, and another went for a 69-yard TD and in the process, as Bengals coach Zac Taylor put it, he had “changed the momentum” of the game and “catapulted” Cincinnati to victory.

So afterward Chase was asked his thoughts on his record-setting day and his team’s first trip to the playoffs since the 2015 season.

“Aaaah…everything’s overwhelming me at the moment. I ain’t gonna lie,” he said. “I’m just overwhelmed by what’s going on.”

He certainly had not been overwhelmed when the Chiefs’ highly-touted cornerbacks were bumping him, grabbing him and pressuring him as they tried to play him one-on-one.

“If you’re going to play him one-on-one, it’s gonna be a long day for you,” Burrow said with a grin.

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Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Credit: Jeff Dean

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)
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Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Credit: Jeff Dean

Credit: Jeff Dean

Burrow knows Chase better than anyone. They were pass-and-catch teammates at LSU and led the Tigers to a national title two years ago. In their first pro season together, it’s been more of the same.

Chase is 12 yards away from breaking the Bengals all-time, single-season mark for receiving yards, a record now held by Chad Johnson.

With four touchdown passes Sunday – and five a week ago against Baltimore – Burrow now has 34 TD passes this season and that too is a franchise record.

Burrow has a bevy of great targets – including receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd and tight end C.J. Uzomah – but Chase is in a class all his own.

Burrow said when he gets in a jam or simply needs a big play, one thought comes to mind: “… Ja’Marr is down there somewhere. Just throw it up and he’ll make a play.”

Taylor said Chase would shine no matter what team he was with, but he thinks everything has escalated because of the connection he and Burrow first made at LSU: “The chemistry he and Joe have together has probably helped accelerate his performance.”

If Chase – who was plagued by dropped passes in the preseason – has elevated his play to unmatched heights here in Cincinnati, Burrow is playing in that same stratosphere.

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Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) catches a pass for an 18-yard touchdown as Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward (35) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

Credit: David Dermer

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) catches a pass for an 18-yard touchdown as Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward (35) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
caption arrowCaption
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) catches a pass for an 18-yard touchdown as Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward (35) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

Credit: David Dermer

Credit: David Dermer

He threw for a Bengals’ record 525 yards last week and on Sunday he outdueled Kansas City’s heralded quarterback Patrick Mahomes, completing 30 of 39 passes for 446 yards.

Burrow said he thinks he’s playing the best football of his life, in part, because of the way he now sees the field.

“I feel like Joe is 10 times smarter than he used to be with the blitz,” Chase said.

Taylor praised Burrow as well: “We had great expectations for him and so far he’s exceeded them. He’s got championships on his mind. That’s why he’s here.

(With him) it’s not about winning big regular-season games. He played fr championships in high school and college and his expectation has always been to compete for championships here.”

In his first two seasons as the Bengals coach, Taylor won a total of six games. Now his Bengals are 10-6. There are several reasons– including some big off-season additions to the defense – but there are few quarterback-receiver combos in the league that can eclipse Burrow and Chase.

Sunday, Chase lifted the Bengals time and again.

Early on, Kansas City jumped out to a 14-0 lead and looked as if they were going to run Cincinnati – whose first two possessions ended with quick punts –out of PBS.

That’s when Chase caught a 12-yard pass and turned it into a 72-yard touchdown that electrified the team and the crowd.

Early in the third quarter he had the 69-yard TD reception that brought the Bengals to within four points of the Chiefs and then on the game-winning drive – with Cincinnati seemingly hamstrung with a third-and-27 situation – he out-battled a Chiefs defender on the sideline for a 30-yard catch.

That eventually set up Evan McPherson’s 20-yard field goal to win the game as time expired.

Burrow was asked afterward if it was time to fire up a victory cigar.

“Don’t worry, I smoked one in there,” he said with a grin as he nodded in the direction of the dressing room, which was vibrating from the sounds of music and revelry.

Asked what kind of cigar it was, he shrugged:

“It’s whatever Joe Mixon gave me. He gave it to me a couple of weeks ago, but I didn’t know who I’d gotten it from until today. He just set it on my chess board.”

As for Chase, his rough and tumble chess match had come on the field with the Chiefs defensive backs.

After the game, he said: “I tried to find a couple of them, but they left the field fast. I’m sure they were angry we beat ‘em.”

For different reasons, they felt overwhelmed, too.

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