The Bengals got down big early before it turned into the Ja'Marr Chase show in Cincinnati as the home club stormed back to beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 34-31, to clinch their first AFC North title since 2015.
It was a record-breaking day for Chase, who surpassed fellow LSU alum Justin Jefferson's all-time rookie record with 1,429 receiving yards, most in the Super Bowl era. Doing so in 16 games to best Jefferson put a stamp on Chase's incredible season.
"Everything is overwhelming right now. I'm excited, but overwhelmed," Chase said after the victory.
Overwhelm is what Chase did to the K.C. defense.
The star rookie compiled 266 yards and three TDs, setting a new record for the most receiving yards in a game by a rookie and the most receiving yards in Bengals franchise history.
Chase's 266 yards were more than half of the Bengals' 475 total yards against a heretofore stellar Chiefs defense.
"If you're going to play him one-on-one, a lot of times it's going to be a long day for you," Joe Burrow said of his teammate. "He's a great player, and he's going to be a great player for a long time. Great person, too. He doesn't care if he gets 260 yards and three touchdowns or if he gets zero yards and everyone else makes all the yards. Great guy to have."
The Chiefs had no answer for Chase all game, but perhaps the biggest play from the rookie was his first TD. With the Bengals trailing 14-0 early in a game that could have turned into a boat race by the AFC leaders, Chase took a short pass and juked out the entire K.C. defense for a 72-yard score, and the shootout was on.
Following the game, coach Zac Taylor noted how big that first Chase TD was to the Bengals getting back in the game.
"I would agree with you there, because it was just a standard third-down play," Taylor said. "He ran what we call a pressure route -- a 10-12 yard speed out -- it was more of a Cover 2 inside blitz shot, and he split the crowd and outran their whole defense for a touchdown. You can't coach that -- that's just Ja'Marr Chase being Ja'Marr Chase. And it really did catapult us, because the momentum really was not in our favor -- we had three-and-outs early on. I also thought that the first one to start the third quarter jumpstarted that second half. We were in a third down, and that was a play we worked early in the week, and Joe did a great job seeing the coverage, and he laid it out there for Ja'Marr, and Ja'Marr finished the play off. But yeah, those two plays really got us going in the game."
Sunday's performance wasn't some garbage-time stat-stacking. Every play Chase made was pivotal in the Bengals securing the division title. Cincy became just the seventh team in NFL history to win its division after finishing last place in its division for at least three consecutive years.
The Bengals selected Chase No. 5 overall, believing his explosive playmaking could make Cincy's offense unstoppable. They showed why Sunday.
Burrow repeatedly gave the rookie a shot, and he delivered every time.
"If you get one-on-one, I'm going to give him a chance," the QB said. "It doesn't matter the point of the game, situation, third-and-one... If he gets one-on-one, I'm going to give him a shot."
Chase got the Bengals back into the game early and helped win it late.
With Cincinnati sitting at a third-and-27 in a tie ball game with 3:19 left, Burrow hit Chase down the sideline for a 30-yard catch to convert and put the Bengals in field-goal range to win.
The big play by Chase left the Chiefs lamenting not providing help on the rookie.
"It's hindsight now, but we could have helped out a little more on Chase," K.C. coach Andy Reid said. "We put our guys in a position to make a play and get to the quarterback. It didn't work out. Our guys busted their tail to get it done, and it didn't work. It's the type of things where a little piece of that goes to the coaches and players."
Chase became the first rookie with multiple games of 200-plus receiving yards since at least 1950 and is the first player with 200-plus receiving yards in multiple games in a season since Josh Gordon and Alshon Jeffery in 2013.
The wideout, who made a loud case for Offensive Rookie of the Year, had the Chiefs grasping at air, and shaking their head.
"I didn't think we tackled as well as we've been tackling the last couple of months, and any time you're playing against a player like that, they're going to expose you," safety Tyrann Mathieu said. "If you're having an off day, they're going to be the reason you get exposed. So hats off to the kid. He had a great game, and I'm hoping he can keep it going going forward. But for us, really what I said a couple of minutes ago is even if guys make a big play, catch a ball or get a touchdown, it's all about the next drive and how we respond. 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."
Burrow, Chase and the Bengals offense will be leaving defenses feeling that way for years to come. Sunday was simply the start.