NEW ORLEANS – If only Odell Beckham Jr. had been here disbursing cash postgame, then this Cincinnati Bengals-Saints affair in the Superdome would have picked up right where the LSU-Clemson national title bout left off on Jan. 13, 2020.
The NCAA has not completely finished its LSU case involving OBJ’s pre-NIL indiscretions after LSU’s win over Clemson, and Cincinnati stars Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase seemed to still be playing at LSU on Sunday afternoon during a dramatic, 30-26 win over the Saints in front of 70,004.
Trailing much of the game – much like LSU did to Clemson before winning 42-25 three years ago – Burrow found his old LSU receiver just in time for the win. He threw only about 15 yards in the air to hit Chase on a back shoulder fade at the 50-yard line. Chase, who grew up across the Mississippi River from New Orleans in Harvey, did the rest.
He shook cornerback Bradley Roby, who was subbing for injured starter Marshon Lattimore, and was off toward the French Quarter. Then safety Tyrann Mathieu, also a New Orleans native who was on LSU’s losing team in the national championship game to Alabama in 2012, here, missed a tackle on Chase.
Touchdown and the 30-26 lead on a 60-yard completion with 1:57 to go.
“There’s two missed tackles – touchdown,” Mathieu said. “It’s really simple.”
Not to mention a Bayou Caviar of a connection between Burrow and Chase going back to 2018 in Baton Rouge.
“Unbelievably dynamic,” Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said. “They just have some great chemistry. They really haven’t skipped a beat from college – all those reps they put in together. We can count on those guys.”
You knew something might be up when Burrow tossed the fancy suit and donned Chase’s old No. 1 LSU jersey instead for his pregame outfit. That after Burrow tried to downplay his return to Louisiana as a “business trip” at mid-week.
Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase Stage An LSU Reunion
“It was crazy when he asked me for it because I really didn’t know what he was going to do,” said Chase, who led all receivers with seven catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. He did that, too, when he and Joe beat Clemson for the national title, grabbing nine for 221 yards and two touchdowns on that night. Incredibly, he also caught the touchdown that put LSU ahead to stay against Clemson – a 14-yard touchdown for a 21-17 lead in the second quarter – as he did Sunday vs. New Orleans.
“When I saw him with it on, it was cool of him repping me in my hometown,” Chase said. “It was crazy being back home. The crowd was crazy. The fans were crazy. New Orleans fans and Bengals fans were both excited to see both teams. It was an unbelievable experience.”
It was a reunion for Burrow, the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner, and Chase, the 2019 Biletnikoff winner.
“Yeah, it always does when you play in this state,” Burrow said when asked if he felt like the dome atmosphere had a college feel and sound to it.
“It was crazy to come back and experience that,” Burrow, an Athens, Ohio, native who transferred to LSU in 2018 after graduating from Ohio State. “It was a great day for us. I have a lot of great memories. It was one game here, but I have a lot of great memories of this stadium and a lot of great memories of this culture and these fans. So, it was great to come back and feel that energy again.”
It is also good to be at least .500 again at 3-3 for the defending AFC champions after sack issues and interception problems early in the season for Burrow, who struggled to come back from an appendectomy last July.
Burrow looked 100 percent on this day, scrambling for a 19-yard touchdown on a 3rd-and-8 play in the second quarter to get the Bengals within 17-14. He went full Fran Tarkenton on another scramble in the fourth quarter that led to a field goal to cut the Saints’ lead to 26-24 with 3:42 left.
“He does an unbelievable job in the pocket of somehow avoiding the rush and getting out of there. We had a couple of opportunities to finish on him, and we didn’t,” said Saints coach Dennis Allen, who dipped to 2-4 in his first season trying to replace Sean Payton.
“Sometimes when things look really bleak and dead, Joe finds a way out of the mess,” Taylor said. “You don’t know how he does it. He just does it. It’s special to see when it happens.”
Chase is used to it and vice versa.
“When I saw the look (of the Saints’ defense before the 60-yard touchdown), I knew it was going there,” Burrow said. “I’m never surprised by that guy.”
But Burrow can still surprise Chase. He did so by wearing his jersey.
“I wanted to pay tribute to the people of Louisiana,” said Burrow, who also signed autographs pre-game, which he usually does not do. “What better way to do it than with the jersey that Ja’Marr wore in the national title game?”