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Joe Burrow’s AFC North revenge tour reaches Baltimore in an emphatic way

Burrow’s second game in Baltimore validated a trend his own division can’t ignore.

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The stats have never mattered to Joe Burrow, but they always seem to improve the second time around for him, regardless of the scenario.

Seriously. This goes back to his two-year run at LSU. The modest 2018 season Burrow completed was the expectation for a transfer quarterback integrating himself in a historically offensively challenged program. It prepared exactly nobody for what was to come a year later. Well, except for Burrow.

2019 was the reason Burrow is in Cincinnati playing quarterback for the Bengals and not behind a desk somewhere else. Round 2 consistently plays into Burrow’s hands. The AFC North is just the latest example.

With Sunday’s 41-17 thrashing—as Burrow coined it—in the books, he has now played all three AFC North teams twice. We all know why it took a year and a half to reach this point. Before his knee injury, the division did its best to make Burrow look like a rookie, and the Baltimore Ravens were objectively the most successful at doing so. There was plenty of room to improve from 183 yards and an interception on 19 of 30 passing—Burrow’s stat line from the Bengals’ 27-3 blowout loss in Baltimore last year.

How’s 416 yards and three touchdowns almost exactly a year later sound?

416 yards not only against the Ravens, but on their own turf, is almost unheard of. It’s only happened for an opposing QB three other times in the history of Ravens football. Interestingly enough, the last time came two weeks prior when Carson Wentz nearly took the Ravens down on Monday Night Football.

The yardage was a career best for Burrow in his 17th career game. His previous best was 406, and it happened the second time Burrow played the Cleveland Browns. Noticing a trend here?

Burrow and the Bengals didn’t crumble to the Ravens’ notorious pressure-heavy defense, and they didn’t just squeak by for a close win. They ran them out of the building. It was the kind of day Burrow had been waiting for since he was denied revenge last year.

“When I got injured last year, that was one of the things I was most upset about was not getting a chance against our division multiple times,” Burrow said in his postgame presser. “I’ve always felt like the more I play, if you give me two chances against a team, I’m going to play much better the second time. That’s just common sense in my head, and I didn’t get that chance against Pittsburgh and Baltimore last year.”

The numbers couldn’t lie even if they wanted to. Here are Burrow’s stats from his first meetings against each AFC North opponent compared to his second games, denoted by Round 1 and Round 2.

Joe Burrow’s AFC North Revenge Tour

Round Record Completions Attempts Completion % Yards Yards/Attempt Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Sacks Sk yards
Round Record Completions Attempts Completion % Yards Yards/Attempt Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Sacks Sk yards
1 0-3 77 131 58.78% 712 5.44 4 1 80.71 14 107
2 2-1 72 103 69.90% 994 9.65 9 3 117.54 5 42

“Fool me—you can’t get fooled again.” - George W. Bush

The Ravens certainly tried to fool Burrow for most of the game. Thanks to their disguised blitz packages, it was more likely to see him get hit than not when he dropped back to pass, regardless of the extra protection head coach Zac Taylor deployed for him.

Burrow finished the first quarter with just 54 yards on five of 13 passing. Baltimore’s defense were feeling themselves and got a bit cocky on the Bengals’ second drive of the second quarter. Immediately after completing a pass to Tee Higgins, Burrow was hit by veteran edge rusher Pernell McPhee and was awarded a roughing the passer flag. The flood gates opened the very next play when Burrow connected with C.J. Uzomah for the game’s first touchdown.

Nerves made out of steel. Blood composed of liquid nitrogen.

The Ravens are far from perfect, but they were winners of five straight games for a plethora of reasons. They were winners of five straight against the Bengals for many of the same reasons. They are not a bad football team, and they didn’t go down without a fight in this game.

Burrow knew that, and proceeded to throw for two more touchdowns to regain and extend a lead that would not be erased.

These are the wins that not only validate the progress from within, but best advertise it to everyone who wasn’t paying attention beforehand. The NFL world is one some way, shape, or form, coming to terms with the Bengals leading the American Football Conference on the shoulders of a quarterback who suffered a terrible injury 11 months ago and wasn’t given a first-round left tackle from April’s NFL Draft.

But this is standard operating procedure for Burrow. Whenever a setback occurs, he wastes no time in making it distant history, whether it’s a collection of mediocre performances, or an injury that would incapacitate most humans for an entire year. The consistent improvement is as clear as it is inevitable. Statement wins and performances like these were once impossible dreams for a franchise that’s riddled with stigmas.

Now, it’s just something to expect from a player who always makes it count when the next opportunity arises.