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Armando Salguero’s OutKick Monday NFL Perspectives: Bengals Plan With Burrow Pays Off; Raiders Walk The Walk; Cardinals Make A Statement; Plus This And That

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This is how it’s supposed to work: Awful team with the NFL’s worst record uses the No. 1 overall pick that all the previous season’s suffering brought to select an elite quarterback who soon becomes the face of a franchise that changes course and becomes a champion.

That’s the textbook manner, and it has worked for the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bengals and Joe Burrow are still going viral this morning after winning the AFC North and celebrating in the locker room afterward with a cigar and a little dance that was a throwback to his LSU get the gat days in 2019.

The game book says Burrow connected on 30 of 39 passes (76.9 completion percentage) for 446 yards and four TDs, without an interception. That’s outstanding.

But looking at the past two weeks as the Bengals have made their push for the division title, the Burrow numbers are staggering.

The past two weeks, Burrow has thrown for 971 yards and eight touchdowns — or two fewer than the Jacksonville Jaguars have thrown the entire season.

Burrow’s 971 passing yards the last two weeks is the most in consecutive wins by any quarterback in NFL history.

Burrow’s performance roasting the Kansas City defense was so hot it literally caused a Kansas City Chiefs staff member’s jacket to catch fire on the sideline.

(Fine, so maybe it wasn’t Burrow’s work that caused the fire, but I can use my artistic license to make the connection, no?)

“We had expectations for [Burrow], and so far he’s exceeded those expectations,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “And, of course, he’s got championships on his brain — he’s not just a guy winning big regular season games. I know that’s why he’s here — he’s always playing for championships.

“He’s playing for championships in high school, he played for championships in college, and his expectation has always been to compete for championships here. And it’s not going to be easy — we’ve got a lot to work to do — we’re not even close yet to doing all these great things.

“Certainly a big step in the right direction [Sunday], and there’s no question that Joe is at
the forefront of leadership on this team, and this team jumps on his back, and he’ll carry us as far as we let him.”

Burrow obviously isn’t getting this done alone. Drafting Ja’Marr Chase this year has brought an elite receiver who is the NFL’s leading offensive rookie of the year candidate. (He will get Mando’s vote.)

Chase caught 11 passes on 12 targets Sunday for 266 yards and three TDs. The 266 yards was the most ever by a receiver against the Chiefs.

“If you’re going to play him one-on-one, a lot of times it’s going to be a long day for you,” Burrow said of his go-to receiver. “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.”

Chase eventually will get more double coverages which, of course, means teams will back away from attacking Burrow with zero blitzes and open other receivers such as Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins for single coverage.

There seem to be no really great options against the Cincy passing game.

And that attack, led by Burrow, has high hopes going forward. Burrow articulated those hopes in the preseason.

“Yeah. I said it in the preseason. We were talking about playoffs, and I said that if we were going to go to the playoffs, the easiest way to do that was to win the division,” he said. “Everyone kind of laughed at us a little bit, but we knew what kind of team we had and the kind of guys in the locker room we had. We knew we could go out and do it.”

Cardinals Stop The Bleeding And Make A Statement

After three consecutive losses, all in December, and something of a reputation for fading late in the season, the Arizona Cardinals welcomed Sunday’s 25-22 victory over the Dallas Cowboys with satisfication.

And perhaps a little relief.

It was such a tension relief that coach Kliff Kingsbury could joke with reporters about visiting AT&T Stadium after a rough final experience there while at Texas Tech.

“I kind of get triggered, still, from this room because three years ago, I was in that locker room and learned that I was fired from a tweet at Texas Tech, so it’s still a little antsy coming in here,” Kingsbury said with a smile. “I’m proud of the effort, with all the things we had going on, the way the guys stepped up. They played hard the entire game. We knew we were playing a great opponent and had to play clean football, and we did, for the most part.

“I don’t know if (there was) doubt, but when you don’t have J.J., you don’t have Hop – you’re missing James Conner. You’re missing some of those really – Rondell – big-time playmakers on both sides of the ball, yeah, you have some thoughts like, ‘Hey, how are we doing to figure this out? How are we going to move some pieces around to make it happen? But I don’t think it was a confidence deal. I think our coaches and players know we have enough talent in our locker room that’s healthy and ready to roll and we can play with anybody.”

The Cardinals sealed this game in the final four minutes when the offense got the ball and never gave it back to Dak Prescott and the Dallas offense. Door shut.

“That’s what winning teams do,” quarterback Kyler Murray said. “You want to be one of those guys at the quarterback position that when you have the ball, the game is over — that was that moment for me and the offense to put it away, to put it on our shoulders.”

The Cowboys are the NFC East champions and could conceivably host the Cardinals in a couple of weeks because Arizona is the No. 5 seed now and needs multiple things to happen to catch the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West

So the Cardinals and Cowboys might meet again in the playoffs in two weeks.

“I would rather not,” Kingsbury said. “Just excited to be in the playoffs, so whoever it ends up (being), we’ll take it.

“But, I mean, it’s tough to beat anybody twice in this league. It really is. We understand that and if it falls that way, we know we’d have to play our best game of the year to try and get it done.”

The Cardinals are done traveling in the regular season and finished those trips with an impressive 8-1 record.

Raiders Walking The Walk

Players and coaches on every NFL team talk about adversity and typically like to talk about how they have overcome it. Well, the clinical study on answering adversity in the NFL this year is probably the Las Vegas Raiders.

Let’s see:

Season begins with general manager understanding team has to make the playoffs or he might be out.

Head coach embroiled in an ugly e-mail leak that portrays him as a racist, homophobe and other things.

Head coach resigns.

Deep threat wide receiver smashes into the back of another car, igniting it on fire and killing a young woman and her dog.

Same WR arrested and cut from the team.

Top cornerback released after video shows him holding a gun and threatening to kill someone.

Yeah, there have been tests for this team. And the answer has been three consecutive victories the last three weeks to put themselves in a win-and-in game for the playoffs next Sunday night against the Los Angeles Chargers.

And maybe, just maybe, the trials this team has experienced — uncomfortable as they might have been — have made them stronger.

“Absolutely,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “It’s something that – it’s not just something that we went through so it helps us. We talk about it. Like, nobody cares, keep going, win the day, win the game.

“Is the season over because our head coach is gone? Is the season over because a receiver’s gone or a corner’s gone? At the end of the day, we have a job to do, so it’s just that nobody-cares mentality. No one’s going to come feel sorry for you. No one’s going to come pat you on the back and tell you it’s going to be OK.

“It’s not OK. We have to win. And I think it’s that mentality that we keep speaking into existence that when things happen – if I throw a pick, the defense doesn’t care. They don’t even blink. They go out, and they don’t even let points happen. It’s unbelievable.”

Impressive.

This And That

— Green Bay Packers coach improved his record as the team’s head coach to 39-9 on Sunday and that broke the record for most wins by a coach in his first three years with a team previously held by George Seifert, who was 38-7 his first three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers from 1989-91.

— The NFL calculates net passing yards for a team as total passing yards minus sack yards. Well, New York Giants quarterback Mike Glennon completed 4 passes for 24 yards against the Chicago Bears. But he was sacked as many times (4) for 34 yards in losses. So on Sunday the New York Giants passed the football for minus-10 yards — or less than random people in Siberia who didn’t take a snap and have never seen a football or a forward pass in their life.

— Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians did the right thing Sunday, announcing Antonio Brown has played his final game for the team after he quit and made a scene in the middle of a game. But this causes issues for Tampa Bay. The Bucs don’t have leading receiver Chris Godwin, who’s out for the season with a knee injury. Second-leading receiver Mike Evans isn’t 100 percent. And running back Leonard Fournette, who has 69 catches, is out with a hamstring injury that may or may not be good by the playoffs. The Bucs made a principled and correct decision moving on from Brown. But it is going to hurt.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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