CINCINNATI – Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow set a franchise record and helped put the Bengals alone in first place in the AFC North after dominating and defeating Baltimore 41-21 at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.
Burrow set the single game passing mark of 525 yards, the record formerly held by Boomer Esiason, who threw for 490 yards on Oct. 7, 1990.
The LSU product and No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft completed 37 of 46 attempts with four touchdowns, no interceptions and posted a passer rating of 143.2. Burrow threw two TDs to Tee Higgins, one to Tyler Boyd and one to Joe Mixon as the Bengals swept Baltimore for the first time since 2015.
Cincinnati stands atop the AFC North at 9-6 while Pittsburgh is 7-7-1, the Ravens are 8-7 and Cleveland is 7-8.
“We’re right where we want to be,” Burrow said after the game. “We knew we had a chance to be in this position in training camp. We knew what kind of team we had. You couldn’t ask for a better situation right now. We control our destiny. Win these next two games, and we’ve got the division locked.”
Several of Burrow’s passes found Higgins, who finished the game with a career-high 194 yards on 12 catches.
“It felt so good,” Higgins said. “First time ever going for 190 so it felt good.”
In the first two drives, Burrow completed all eight passes, with four of them going to Higgins for 59 yards. The second drive culminated when Joe Mixon plowed into the end zone from one yard out with twenty-seven seconds to go in the first quarter for the 10-7 lead.
“When he is on fire like that, all your job is to do is get open,” Higgins said of his quarterback. “And he’s going to find you.”
On Cincinnati’s next drive, Burrow connected with Boyd on the second play from scrimmage down the middle for a 68-yard touchdown strike and the 17-7 lead.
“(Baltimore) was playing a lot of zone coverage today against us and my receivers did a great job of finding the holes,” Burrow added. “I’m really excited about how we performed today.”
On the Bengals last drive of the half, Higgins went up high and pulled down a Burrow pass for a 42-yard gain at the Ravens three-yard line. After two defensive penalties, the due hooked up again for a one-yard scoring strike and a 31-14 lead.
Burrow’s record-setting outing came just days after Baltimore’s defensive coordinator Don Martindale said it was too soon to hand the QB a gold jacket, meant for the players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I wouldn’t say I was offended by it,” Burrow said. “I mean, I’m in year two. Who knows what’s going to happen down the road? I didn’t think it was a necessary comment.”
In the opening drive of the third, Baltimore was forced to punt after a three-and-out, thanks in part to a Trey Hendrickson sack of quarterback Josh Johnson. The Bengals defensive end, who pulled down two sacks in the game, set a single season record for total sacks with 14, surpassing Carlos Dunlap’s record of 13.5 in 2015. He has also been named to his first Pro Bowl.
“It’s a tremendous achievement,” Hendrickson said. “I sacrifice a lot to play the game and to get recognition like that means a lot.”
From there, Cincinnati moved the ball methodically down the field and ate up 10:29 of the third period clock that featured 19 plays over 68 yards and ended with an Evan McPherson 36-yard field goal for the 34-14 lead.
Burrow spread the ball around to his wide receivers as Ja’Marr Chase hauled in seven catches for 125 yards and Boyd had three for 85 yards.
“He is making really good decisions,” said Bengals coach Zac Taylor about his quarterback. “The ball is coming out quick when we need it to. He was seeing some of the stuff down field really well. You could tell his confidence he had in the pocket to get away from some pressure that showed up.”
Baltimore struggled with third-string quarterback Johnson, who started because Lamar Jackson remains out with an ankle injury and backup Tyler Huntley was placed on the COVID-19 list this week. Johnson signed with the team as a free agent last week and finished with 304 yards passing and completed 28 of 40 attempts.
Cincinnati will host Kansas City (11-4) on Sunday and then will wrap up the regular season in Cleveland on January 9.
“We have to be laser-like focused this week for Kansas City,” Higgins added. “We have to be locked in the whole week and hopefully we can have the same performance we had this week.”