On Sunday, they picked up where they left off in a 41-21 victory over their division rivals to take control of the AFC North. The Bengals blitzed the Ravens for 31 first-half points as Burrow played on one of the best halves of football in the NFL this season — or any for that matter.
Burrow hits Ravens with MJ shrug on historic day
By the time he was done, he'd torched the Ravens for 525 passing yards, the fourth-highest single-game total in NFL history behind Norm Van Brocklin (554 yards in 1951), Matt Schaub (527 yards in 2012) and Warren Moon (527 yards in 1990). He delivered a Michael-Jordan-esque shrug when he broke 500 yards with a 52-yard connection to running back Joe Mixon.
— NFL (@NFL) December 26, 2021
Tee Higgins breakout continues
Burrow got a big assist from Tee Higgins, whose breakout since the season's midpoint continued in spectacular fashion. With the Bengals facing third-and-16 near midfield in the second quarter, Higgins took off on a go-route down the left sideline with two defenders in tow. No matter.
Burrow launched a missile armed with confidence in his second-year receiver's ability to get the ball. Draped by cornerback Kevon Seymour and safety Brandon Stephens, Higgins out-leapt both to corral the perfectly placed ball at the 3-yard line for a 52-yard gain.
— NFL (@NFL) December 26, 2021
Four plays later, Higgins hauled in a 1-yard touchdown pass from Burrow to pay off the big play. The touchdown gave the Bengals a 31-14 lead going into halftime and capped a stunning first half from Burrow and the Bengals' offense.
Burrow's spectacular half, game
Burrow finished the half completing 18 of 21 passes for 299 yards with three touchdowns. His yardage total was the highest at halftime by any NFL quarterback in 2021. The advanced metrics were just as striking with his 26 first-half plays producing 21.9 expected points added.
Higgins finished with 12 catches for 194 yards and two touchdowns. The total marked his fourth 100-yard effort in five games after he produced zero in the first 11 weeks of the season. Rookie standout Ja'Marr Chase added seven catches for 125 yards as Burrow finished the day completing 37 of 46 pass for 525 yards with four touchdowns and no turnovers.
With the win, the Bengals improved to 9-6 to take control of the AFC North while dropping the Ravens to 8-7. With two weeks left in the season and possession of the tiebreaker courtesy of their sweep of the Ravens, it adds up to a commanding lead in the division for the Bengals.
Was Burrow sparked by bulletin-board material?
After the game, Burrow said that a comment from Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale "maybe" inspired him to his 525-yard performance. Martindale provided the bulletin board material when asked if the Ravens would double-team Chase like they did Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams in Week 15.
"Adams is one of the top two receivers in the league, and he's not No. 2," Martindale told reporters of Chase on Thursday. "Aaron Rodgers is a Hall of Fame QB, and I don't think we're ready to buy a gold jacket for Joe [Burrow]."
Here's what Burrow had to say in response after Sunday's game:
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) December 26, 2021
"I didn't think it was a necessary comment," Burrow said. "I wouldn't say I was offended by it. I mean, I'm in Year 2, who knows's what's gonna happen down the road. But I didn't think it was a necessary comment."
When asked if Martindale's comment was on his mind when he was throwing for 525 yards, Burrow smirked and responded: "Maybe."
As for the 52-yard pass to Mixon that put Burrow over 500 yards? That arrived with the Bengals leading 41-21 with 2:00 remaining. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh had this to say about it.
"They called their plays and we call our plays," Harbaugh told reporters.
Unless both teams make the playoffs and end up facing each other, Sunday's game marked the last time the Bengals and Ravens will play this season. Any bad blood will likely have to wait until 2022 to be addressed.