by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
With a 201 yard performance vs Baltimore, scoring an unreal spin and turn touchdown from his own 18 yard line, former Tiger Legend and current Bengals rookie Ja'marr Chase has already topped past teammate Justin Jefferson's rookie marks by 190 yards through 7 games.
In fact, just as this very author told you dear readers, Ja'marr Chase is running the NFL ragged:
As a rookie, he leads the AFC in receiving yards (754), yards per catch (21.5), as well as being tied for the AFC-lead in touchdown grabs (6)....he's currently on pace to hit a top 5 all time single season total (1,831 yards)......didn't we just witness a rookie Tiger WR geaux off last year?
In yet another example of Tiger receiving excellence, following & competitively usurping 2018-2019 teammate Justin Jefferson's should've been Rookie Of The Year output from 2020, it's hilarious to me how any analyst would've questioned the Bengals drafting him.
Since Ja'Marr's arrival in Cincinnati, not only have the Bengals become a high octane passing team unleashing Joe Burrow's arm to its fullest, now they win games they lost last year, and with Chase as yet another offensive option holding defenses at bay, the 2019 Biletnikoff winner's presence has correlated with a decrease in sacks on Joe Burrow.
While their offensive line is still far from perfect (allowing 5 sacks in Week 1 & 2 each), due to the receiving options surrounding him, Joe's sack average has dropped from 3.2 to 2.4; 3 outings in 2021 have only shown the Bengals QB get sacked once or fewer, another where Burrow was sacked twice..........but how would a receiver like Ja'Marr help protect Joe in the backfield?
Because Ja'Marr Chase is always open...meaning Joe is getting rid of the ball a lot sooner than last year.
Chase started the season silencing doubters by way of a monumental, game-winning performance vs Jefferson, Patrick Peterson and ZVR's Minnesota Vikings on his debut;
Then, catching just 119 combined yards over his next two performances vs Chicago and Pittsburgh, Chase still ripped down 3 TDs in the process. Against the Steelers, Ja'Marr greatly contributed to Cincy's pivotal statement victory over their division foes.
During a Thursday Night Football meeting vs Jacksonville, which featured almost ten combined LSU or Clemson players who participated in the 2020 CFP National Championship Game, two long Chase catches set up a pair of crucial touchdowns for his teammates, instigating the come from behind victory over 2019 teammate K'Lavon Chaisson & former Clemsonite QB Trevor Lawrence.
This wasn't your old man's Bengals....
Lighting up Green Bay for 159 yards and another score, the former Rummel High Raider hasn't backed down from any challenges, nearly beating Aaron Rodgers' 6-1 side.
Adding another 97 yard day vs Detroit, highlighted by the former LSU Tiger's blistering all-around abilities on full display, Chase entered the Baltimore game with plenty of confidence & chemistry alongside Joe Burrow.
Facing former 2019 Tiger teammate Patrick Queen, the best rookie LB of 2020, both Joe and Ja'marr were hungry to avenge the Bengals' 2020 collapse to the Ravens.
Outside of his knee injury @ Washington, Joe likely experienced his worst rookie moments against Queen's Ravens, getting strip-sacked by LSU's 1st round LB.
Not only for purposes of vengeance, achieving victory this past Sunday would place the Bengals in a great spot inside their AFC North division....and thanks to Ja'Marr Chase's endlessly historic antics, Cincy broke Baltimore to pieces.
Trouncing the previously 5-1 Ravens by a shocking score of 41-17, the Bengals' outrageous win was like a shot heard 'round the NFL world: the Bengals are for real....and with Burrow & Chase perfectly replicating their 2019 chemistry, we can have those MVP, Rookie of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year discussions.
What we watched on Sunday wasn't just images of two former Tigers playing together in a successful fashion at the NFL level....this is two Tiger G.O.A.Ts aiming for titles & exaltation on every play, this is a quarterback and receiver who's telepathy knows no bounds.......these are two NFLSU Tigers hunting for every title, award, or victory in their path....silencing doubters, embarrassing haters, befuddling analysts, and giving LSU fans de ja vu all over again, what Ja'Marr Chase and Joe Burrow are doing is beyond special....and this past Sunday will be remembered for a long time as the start of their reign:
Chase was rampant vs Baltimore, collecting 8 catches for 201 yards and his 6th TD of the year, but it was the masterclass way he delivered his first 200 yard game that continues to blow my mind:
All but 1 of his catches went for a first down, starting with his first grab, a gutsy conversion on 4th & 1, easily breaking away and separating from the Ravens with ease;
Then, Joe found Ja'Marr on a back shoulder fade, the pass reeled in right over the DB's outstretched hands.
Next, came a long crossing route burner, Chase's YAC brilliance showcased for all to witness, even the Ravens' defender had a prime view as Ja'Marr hurdled over him.
When he caught his next pass, an 18 yard slant, a few Ravens defenders attempted to rattle the rookie, slamming him to the ground and getting in his face...pinning him to the field.
Scoffing at their fear, Ja'Marr was unmoved....in fact, he was laughing a bit.
Burrow carved Baltimore open again for Chase's 5th catch, 21 more yards as the numbers began to pile up for both quarterback and receiver....but it was just about to explode....
Leading 20-17, Burrow & Chase were about to blow the game wide open:
Backed into their own 18 yard line on 3rd down, Burrow stepped back and uncorked a missile over the middle to the Top 5 pick, making the catch as two Ravens defenders were poised to pounce.
As he regained his balance from the grab, Chase spun away from a low hit before ducking out of two defenders' flailing arms, and as he turned, he inadvertently spun from an incoming defender and found himself staring at miles of real estate. For all the analysts who said he couldn't run after the catch, Chase flew 82 yards down the field in the blink of an eye.....he was gone.
Giving Cincy a 10 point lead, Burrow's favorite weapon not only solidified their chances of victory, Chase's greatness allowed the Bengals to outscore the Ravens 21-0 throughout the final 19 minutes.
Everyone was stunned at what they'd just seen...here was Harbaugh's experienced Baltimore Ravens getting their asses pounded by a rookie WR and a second year QB who just returned from knee surgery;
This was a new brand of kickass football, utilizing balance with RB Joe Mixon, although still leaning on the passing prowess of Joe Burrow.
While supplying the team's best playmakers with the ball, Ja'Marr (754, 6 TDs), Tee Higgins (256, 2 TDs), Tyler Boyd (329, 1 TD), or Tight End C.J Uzomah (5 TDs & 256 yards already), Joe's lethal receiving corps and improving OL have taken the Bengals to a 5-2 record, featuring big wins over division rivals Baltimore & Pittsburgh, while only losing by a field goal to both the 6-1 Packers and 3-4 Chicago Bears.
Quite simply, Ja'Marr Chase's arrival has sent Cincinnati into another tier....a top tax bracket....a prime state of grace where the NFL's greatest players reside....and right now, both Burrow & Chase are having the time of their lives chasing titles, breaking records, beating opponents and competing against the best.
Holding the top record in the AFC right now doesn't count for much in January or February, however expect Cincy to at least come close to an AFC Championship Game appearance this year.....that's how good they are, that's how much I believe in Joe Burrow, that's how valuable Ja'Marr Chase has been, and don't forget how wide open 2021's race for the AFC title will be.
With a wide variety of potential postseason opponents, the 4-2 Bills, 5-2 Titans, 5-2 Ravens, 5-2 Raiders, 4-2 Chargers, 4-3 Browns or struggling 3-4 Chiefs, while the Bengals already hold two division wins against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, Chase & Burrow are aiming for their ultimate destiny:
It was less than 2 years ago when this former Tiger quarterback-receiver duo won a National Championship together.....
Now, they want a Super Bowl....
21.5 PER CATCH
-Scoring TD every 5.8 catches
SOME SELECTED JA'MARR CONTENT FROM LSUODYSSEY.COM
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
SHOUTOUTS: Kevin Howwwwwwwwweeeeeellll, MARYROSE, SUSAN BRIGNAC, SARAH JOHNSON!!!!