LOS ANGELES -- Cincinnati Bengals rookie receiver Ja'Marr Chase has garnered most of the attention on the way to AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
That attention comes off the field and on it, where defenses have shaded his way in an attempt to slow the dynamic wideout.
Ahead of Super Bowl LVI against the Los Angeles Rams, it would be foolhardy to discount the role Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd will have in the big game.
Both Higgins and Boyd have star potential in their own right.
Higgins has generated 1,999 yards receiving in two seasons, including 1,091 this year even with Chase's emergence, has been a monster in key spots and led the Bengals in receiving yards in the AFC Championship Game (103). He has earned 95-plus yards in six of his last nine games, including the playoffs. And his 11.9 air yards per target this postseason are the most in the NFL (minimum 15 targets), per Next Gen Stats.
"When the ball is in the air, my job is to go catch it. If I'm not catching it, nobody's going to catch it," Higgins said Friday at the team's final availability ahead of Super Bowl.
Boyd, who views himself as the "best slot receiver in the league," buoyed the Bengals' offense before their 2021 resurgence. The 27-year-old, who has been with Cincinnati for six seasons, led the Bengals in receiving yards in 2018 and 2019, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark in each of those seasons.
While he's taken a proverbial back seat since Higgins and Chase have arrived, Boyd still provides Joe Burrow with a reliable target who can burst out at any moment -- four games of 85-plus yards in 2021.
Boyd has seen the evolution of the Bengals' passing offense, taking the torch from former Cincinnati star A.J. Green before the Cincinnati WR corps morphed into one of the most explosive units in the NFL.
"It's evolved to the best since I've been here," Boyd said. "The year when A.J. was still here, and it was me, A.J. and Tee, I thought that was going to be the year when we were going to break through to the point where we are now, but things didn't go our way. We were still kind of rebuilding, still trying to find all the missing pieces outside of just the receiving corps. ... Once we got the addition of Chase and Trey (Hendrickson) and Mike Hilton and all the rest of those great guys starting to make plays to help us win. This year is the year we finally figured everything out."
Chase's addition has helped make life easier for the Bengals offense, allowing Higgins and Boyd to work in one-on-one matchups with teams fearing getting beaten deep by the rookie.
"He gets a lot of credit, a lot of attention," Higgins said of Chase. "When those one-on-ones do come, my job is to just go out there and make a play. Hopefully, I can do that going forward for the rest of my career."
With Chase exposing defenses deep and after the catch, Higgins and Boyd have exploited opponents on the intermediate passing attack, providing chain-moving plays. The Burrow-to-Boyd connection leads all QB-receiver duos in passer rating on intermediate passes since Week 7, including playoffs (minimum 15 such attempts). In the same time span, Burrow-to-Higgins ranked third in the NFL in yardage on intermediate passes.
Against a Rams defense that has gotten beaten over the middle this season – see regular-season games versus San Francisco -- the duo should have a significant role on Super Bowl Sunday.
The narrative all week has been how the Rams could match up Jalen Ramsey on Chase in an effort to slow down the Bengals' attack. But Cincinnati knows it has the weapons elsewhere to make that matchup moot if that's how L.A. lines up.
"Ramsey, he's probably the best, or one of the best DBs in the National Football League," Boyd said. "But at the end of the day, we believe any defense we play against we can exploit them, figure out ways to take advantage. Whatever they decide to do with Ramsey, follow Chase, Tee or myself or double whoever, at the end of the day, we've still got a tight end, we've got a running back coming out of the backfield, we're going to have someone who isn't double-teamed. You can't double-team all of us."