CINCINNATI — Sunday seemed and sounded totally different even earlier than the Bengals and Chiefs kicked off at Paycor Stadium, as quarterback Joe Burrow bought bumped from his customary headliner function to that of a gap act.

Burrow at all times goes final on days when it’s the offensive gamers’ flip to run for pregame introductions. And he has because the first sport of his rookie yr.

But Sunday, Burrow went tenth. There was one other teammate ready behind him with a assured smile and nervous-energy bounce as public deal with announcer Nick Wiget boomed into the microphone: “At wide receiver, from LSU, No. 1 — he’s baaaack — Ja’Marr Chase.”

Chase returned from a hip harm that compelled him to overlook 4 video games simply in time to face the identical Chiefs group he torched for a franchise-record 266 yards and three touchdowns final January. This time there was no cape, cellphone sales space or bullet racing. Although there was some flying.

Chase didn’t should be Superman in his return. Burrow took on that function, main the Bengals to a 27-24 victory to maintain tempo with the Ravens for first place within the AFC North at 8-4.

Chase merely needed to step on the sphere and play to assist the Bengals safe a 3rd win in opposition to the Chiefs — the group with one of the best document within the AFC — within the 2022 calendar yr, whereas on the identical time unlocking the complete potential of the Bengals offense.

“I was excited and nervous,” Chase mentioned. “If I’m nervous, that means I care. But I was so excited about the game, I had to not let my emotions get the best of me out there and just play football.”

He didn’t catch his first of seven passes till close to the tip of the primary quarter, an unspectacular seven-yard acquire to transform third-and-2 and prolong what can be a second consecutive landing drive to open the sport with a 14-3 lead.

But by the tip of the sport, Chase had a team-high 97 receiving yards and was on the receiving finish of one more toss throughout the postgame celebration within the locker room, when head coach Zac Taylor delivered the “He’s baaack” name, which most of the gamers enthusiastically parroted.

“Since he’s got back, I’ve kind of been surprised at how he looks the same as when he left,” Taylor mentioned. “I hadn’t felt that after some reps last week, just watching him do routes on air. Before the Tennessee game, I knew the wise thing to do was communicate with him and keep him out. But watching him move, man, if he comes to me and says, ‘I’m definitely playing this game,’ I might have a couple plays ready for him. He’s just a freak.”

Even Chase’s incompletions have been freaky. All certainly one of them. His lone goal that didn’t lead to a reception was an extended go down the left sideline by which he leaped and squeezed the ball with simply his proper hand however was unable to get each ft in bounds up returning to Earth.

“That’s Ja’Marr Chase,” Tee Higgins mentioned. “He’s gonna make those big-time plays. It sucks that one-handed catch didn’t count, but that was a hell of a catch.”

Chase did extra flying later within the sport, hurdling a Chiefs defender who tried to cut him down after turning a brief catch right into a 40-yard run.

“That was an instinct,” Chase mentioned. “I just seen him coming too slow at me and I knew he had to go at my legs if he was coming that slow, so I just jumped in the air.”

Any issues in regards to the hip in that immediate?

“I’m 100 percent, bro,” Chase replied.

As Higgins was answering a query about what it meant to have his teammate again, Chase yelled, “one-on-one” adopted by an enormous chortle from the subsequent locker over.

It didn’t take lengthy for the Chiefs to bathe Chase with consideration. The Bengals gained the toss, took the ball and drove to the 4-yard line. On first-and-goal, the Kansas City protection performed one of many tightest double groups you’ll see, with a nook and security pairing to remove each inside and out of doors leverage from Chase.

Burrow threw incomplete for Samaje Perine, who additionally benefitted from all the eye thrown at Chase to rack up a career-high 155 scrimmage yards. The Bengals went again to the identical formation on second down, and so did the Chiefs. The protection unfold skinny and heavy on Chase, so Burrow stored the ball and ran up the center for the sport’s first landing.

So what did Chase’s mere presence open up Taylor as a play-caller?

“Everything,” Taylor mentioned. “No disrespect to anybody else. but you’ve got two of the premier receivers in all of football on the outside and TB (Tyler Boyd) in the middle, so that can stress a defense. They pay attention to that. That helps the run game. It really does, when they’ve got to devote a little bit more coverage over there to Ja’Marr and Tee.”

Without even touching the ball, Chase harassed the Kansas City protection and injected some additional juice into his offensive line.

“The psychology of an O-lineman when you know there’s a guy whenever he touches the ball can house it is a good feeling,” heart Ted Karras mentioned.

Not the whole lot went nice for Chase on his return. In reality, there have been a few massive errors that had folks lighting into him. The first occasion got here after the Bengals scored their second landing to go up 14-3.

Chase bought within the face of Kansas City security Justin Reid, who made headlines earlier within the week together with his rambling evaluation that he was going to close down tight finish Hayden Hurst, though he referred to him as Higgins and appeared typically confused by what he was saying. Chase began doing the “make it rain” movement together with his arms proper in entrance of Reid, drawing a taunting penalty.

Taylor was screaming at Chase as he returned to the sideline.

“Nobody gets a pass on a taunting penalty,” Taylor mentioned. “I saw it. He apologized afterwards. We had two of those, that’s uncharacteristic of our team and we’ve got to do a better job of controlling the emotions there.”

Chase mentioned he would have performed it once more if it wouldn’t imply he’d be ejected.

“I was out of my mind,” Chase mentioned. “I was losin’ myself, man. I seen 20 and just went crazy. I was just asking for my money. He didn’t want to talk to me.”

Chase additionally had an offensive go interference penalty that negated his personal 17-yard acquire. And then on the primary play after the Bengals took over with 3:19 remaining and the 27-24 lead, Chase caught a brief go from Burrow and ran out of bounds, saving the Chiefs from having to make use of certainly one of their timeouts.

Higgins let him hear it.

“He went off on me,” Chase mentioned. “He said, ‘stay in bounds,’ but he just had an angry voice to it. I was just lost in the moment of trying to get the first down. They wasn’t trying to tackle me, so I was just going for it. I just ended up going out of bounds.”

The subsequent three performs have been runs that compelled Kansas City to make use of its three timeouts. Then on third-and-5 from the 32, Burrow hit Chase for 5 yards and a primary down that left the Chiefs with solely the faintest of hope. The guests nonetheless had an opportunity to get the ball again with a cease on third-and-11 with 1:59 to go, however Burrow hit Higgins on a slant go for 14 yards and a game-sealing first down.

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As Higgins bought up from the deal with, Chase was the primary one there to greet him with a double flex.

“It was a lot of fun, just having him back and seeing him be the competitive player he is,” Higgins mentioned. “Just seeing that makes me happy.”

Most of the 66,243 followers inside Paycor Stadium would agree.

The Bengals went 3-1 in Chase’s absence and put up some spectacular scoring and yardage totals. But his presence, whether or not he’s catching passes or simply garnering consideration, elevates the Bengals from good to nice, and from playoff hopefuls to Super Bowl contenders.

The Chiefs aren’t the one group but to determine the best way to cease Chase and the Bengals. They’re simply the one group who has had three cracks at it within the final 11 months.

More will get their shot in December and January.

Boyd’s message was easy: Good luck.

“Now that we got the three-headed monster back, you can’t really stop us,” Boyd mentioned.

(Photo: Kareem Elgazzar / USA Today)



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