Those two words, in my mind, explain—to a large degree—how the Bengals finally won a playoff game.
Don’t believe me?
Let’s look at some stats.
Burrow had one of the very best starts to a postseason in the last thirty years by completing at least 70% of his passes and posting a QB rating of over 100, one of only three quarterbacks to do so. He joined Drew Brees and Kurt Warner. Brees, of course, didn’t make the postseason until his fourth year and Warner was 28 years old when he made his playoff debut.
On Saturday, Joe Burrow became the third QB in the last 30 years to complete at least 70% of his passes and post a 100+ rating in his first NFL playoff start, joining Drew Brees and Kurt Warner.— Rebecca Toback (@Rebecca_Toback) January 19, 2022
Further, Burrow has already surpassed every Bengals quarterback since Boomer Esiason in terms of playoff passing touchdowns.
Joe Burrow has already surpassed every Bengals QB over the last 30 years in postseason Pass TD— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) January 19, 2022
Joe Burrow 2
Andy Dalton 1
Carson Palmer 1
Jon Kitna 1
A.J. McCarron 1 pic.twitter.com/c1jTz1yeCa
And in terms of advanced analytics, Burrow is heads-and-shoulders above the performances of his predecessor, Andy Dalton, both in Pro Football Focus grades and in expected points added (EPA):
Who can guess which one of these Bengals QB playoff performances is Joe Burrow and which are Andy Dalton? pic.twitter.com/tcamgNdbjN— Kevin Cole (@KevinColePFF) January 17, 2022
Thus, the reality is that if the Bengals really want a chance at the AFC Championship, it will, again, be Burrow and the high-flying passing attack that gives them the best chance.
But if Derrick Henry is limited and the Tennessee Titans are forced to throw early and often, can Ryan Tannehill keep up with Burrow?
So far, Tannehill has not exactly broken passing records in his playoff games. He’s been active for two postseasons, last year and the year before. In four postseason games, though, he’s only topped 200 yards once (209 against in a loss against the Kansas City Chiefs). In fact, in the two wins for which he was the signal caller, Tannehill didn’t even top 100 yards or 15 pass attempts. Could all that change? Maybe. But it isn’t likely.
We spoke with former Titan Denard Walker and asked him if Tannehill can win a shootout with Burrow despite a mediocre regular season. Walker pointed out that the Titans quarterback “hasn’t had all of his pieces all season.” Receiver A.J. Brown has missed four games and future Hall of Famer Julio Jones has missed seven games.
Walker explained that Tannehill’s role is, indeed, to manage the game. And that should be easier now that his receivers are healthy. “If you don’t have your Pro Bowl receiver from last year, A.J., if you don’t have the Waffle House, Julio Jones, and then your high man was really your fourth receiver coming into the season, I don’t care what quarterback you have, it’s going to be hard to win or put up numbers.”
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