CINCINNATI, Ohio — Cincinnati Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase had a legendary day vs. the Kansas City Chiefs.
11 catches, 266 yards, three touchdowns: most receiving yards in an NFL game by a rookie.
Chase’s 1,429 receiving yards are also the most receiving yards in a season by a rookie receiver.
Chase’s performance alone kept the Bengals in the game after falling behind 28-17 in the first half. After the Bengals took the lead 31-28 early in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs tied the game at 31 with six minutes to go.
And a key third-down conversion on the final drive of the game, third and 27 yards, with about three minutes left, helped to seal the game as Chase hauled a pass in from Burrow for 30 yards.
“Everyone knows that meme. ‘F it. Ja’Marr’s down there somewhere,'” quarterback Joe Burrow said about throwing the ball to Chase on the play.
“If you’re going to play him one on one, most of the time it’s going to be a long day for you.”
“We probably could’ve helped out a little bit more on Chase,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said about leaving cornerback Charvarius Ward in one on one coverage with Chase.
“Anytime you playing against a player like that, they gon’ expose you,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said about Chase.
“We had some moments in the game where we responded well, but when we really needed it, we just couldn’t get off the field.”
And that is the difference between the Chiefs before and after their eight game-winning streak.
During the streak, the Chiefs’ defense caused a turnover in every single game; they caused no turnovers vs. the Bengals on Sunday.
In the first half, the Bengals had to punt on their first two drives; they didn’t punt the rest of the quarter.
Of the four Bengals’ drives in the second half, they only punted once.
In high-powered offenses like the Chiefs, it takes a unique defensive coordinator to create stops when the talent isn’t as rich on the defensive side. Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has done that during the streak.
Turnovers and blitzing, aggressive defenses are what has made Spags a great coordinator; but when the playcalling is too aggressive on defense and it doesn’t work, the defense gives up almost 500 yards to the Bengals.
The Bengals had three talented receivers where leaving any of them in man-to-man coverage with no safety help would hurt the Chiefs anyway. But playing press coverage on third and long on a special talent like Chase is ultimately what led to the ending of the streak.
Now that the Chiefs are more likely to be the #2 seed in the AFC West, they have the potential to face teams like the Indianapolis Colts, the Los Angeles Chargers and potentially the Tennessee Titans if they make it to the AFC championship.
The Chiefs defense needs to get back to making those stops that helped them get to the winning streak. If the streak taught them anything, it’s that defense will make or break this team.
The Bengals broke them on Sunday. If they can keep it together, they can make it to a third consecutive Super Bowl.
If. A big If.