Most players are different than we are. When I covered Boomer Esiason centuries ago, I used to marvel how he’d think no quarterback was better than he was. Marino, Montana, Elway … nope. None of them. Esiason loved them and respected them, but it was part of the QB ethos: When I take the field, I’m the best guy out there.
That’s how Joe Burrow carries himself. Burrow threw for 525 yards Sunday in the 41-21 beatdown of the Ravens. It’s the fourth-highest total in NFL history, yet Burrow, as is his custom, talked about it like he was talking about a Seinfeld rerun. Cool, seen it before, enjoyed it, but what’s next?
“I’ve done it a bunch of times,” he said. “That’s what I expect to go out and do every week. I expect to play that way every single week. It wasn’t surprising to me, that’s for sure.”
I try to think about that level of confidence. Yeah, I expect to win the Pulitzer every year. When I don’t, I’m surprised.
Of course it helped Burrow that the Ravens were cut to the quick with Covid and injuries. No team in the NFL (a few are close) has had the level of Covid and injury issues that the Ravens have had. The Ravens signed each of the two quarterbacks who dressed for them Sunday in Cincinnati within the past 13 days. Won’t bore you with the rest other than to say the Ravens have plummeted from 8-3 to 8-7 and have the Rams coming to Baltimore this week. No rest for the destroyed.
Now to the Bengals. Burrow’s been a godsend, of course. Imagine throwing for 941 yards in two high school games. Burrow has done it this year (a record for most yards against a team in one NFL regular season) against the Ravens and their highly regarded coordinator Wink Martindale. With all the Baltimore absentees, Burrow didn’t know exactly how the game would go. “We weren’t really sure what they were gonna do on either side of the ball,” he said. “They had so many guys out on defense. They had a quarterback [Josh Johnson] who hadn’t played. We had an idea of what they were gonna do, but we really didn’t know. We came into the game with the expectation to have to adapt to a bunch of different things and I think both sides of the ball did a good job of that.”
The Bengals had an interesting philosophy building their team—and that philosophy might be leading them to a division title in Burrow’s second year. They were determined to get three franchise receivers around Burrow. Tyler Boyd was there pre-Burrow. Tee Higgins was drafted in Burrow’s year, 2020. And Ja’Marr Chase came in the first round this year instead of Oregon tackle Penei Sewell. Against the undermanned Ravens, those three receivers combined for 404 yards and three touchdowns. Each one, in his own right, looks the part of franchise player at times.
They’ll need to be that, and more, to ensure a division title. Kansas City, winner of eight straight, comes to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday. Burrow has never played Patrick Mahomes, and he didn’t sound too cowed by the prospect when we spoke. “We got a chance to go out and seal the division with that win,” Burrow said. “So we’re excited about that opportunity. Obviously, it’s not gonna be easy. Those guys won our conference the last two years, been to the Super Bowl, great players all around.”
But no one scares Burrow. That’s why this franchise is in such solid shape.