All week leading up to the AFC Championship Game, we had to hear about how Patrick Mahomes was in a league of his own. Joe Burrow has “swagger,” these experts said, but that’s not enough for winning this kind of game in Arrowhead Stadium!
As if Joe Burrow is capable of perceiving pressure. As if Joe Burrow doesn’t thrive in the face of adversity. As if Joe Burrow didn’t just get sacked nine times and win a game on the road against the first seed in the AFC.
Not only were Nick Wright, Shannon Sharpe, and others arguing and yelling about the disparity between the two signal callers, but we had two former Chiefs on our show tell us why Burrow can’t be compared to Mahomes. One even referred to Burrow as “Super Dave,” a comedic stuntman, because of his irrational confidence and penchant for failure.
Watch how poorly those comments aged in this highlight video of the AFC Championship Game embellished with freezing takes:
Let’s get one thing clear: Mahomes has the prettier game. And I’m not talking about the no-look passes. Even his ordinary downfield passes are astonishing. He’s got a quick trigger, almost cartoonish velocity, and top-notch accuracy. Plus he’s a bit more athletic than Burrow.
But Burrow simply gets it done. He’s been doing it all year in the most critical times. He had a couple of rough outings against the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns earlier in the year, but I chalk that up to a man still rediscovering his body after having multiple ligaments torn or damaged in his knee.
If Mahomes is the Michael Jordan of quarterbacks, Burrow is the Larry Bird. I don’t mean that in terms of ranking their overall greatness, but rather in the sense that it is harder for outsiders to fathom the similar impact of two legends when the play of one is not nearly as aesthetically-pleasing as that of the other.
Last Sunday, the entire world got a taste of what we Bengals fans have been blessed to relish in this year entire; Joe Burrow’s quiet but consistent competitiveness, his infectious confidence, his grit, and his timely “by any means necessary” big-time plays, were all on full display in Kansas City.
So why is Burrow so confident? It’s because he’s prepared for every moment, both from a tactical standpoint and emotionally. That is precisely what legendary QB and (should be) Hall of Famer Ken Anderson told us back when Burrow was first drafted.
Now, the narrative has shifted. It’s no longer “Burrow is a nice young QB, but Mahomes is way up here.” Now it’s, “Some moments are too big for Mahomes but not for Burrow.” And if you think that’s just instant analysis not supported by data, you’re wrong. Mahomes had the absolute biggest dip for a QB in EPA from a first half to a second half since the stat has been tracked (1999):
If it felt like you were witnessing a historic collapse (and a total 180) in yesterday's KC/CIN game, that's because you were.— Tucker Boynton (@Tucker_TnL) January 31, 2022
No QB in #nflverse playoff history has had a larger dropoff from 1st to 2nd half EPA than Mahomes did yesterday––and 2nd place is almost a TD behind. pic.twitter.com/iIMNkFMdNz
What’s the point of bringing this up right now? Is it just about taking a victory lap? Not quite. It’s about appreciating what Burrow has done and highlighting the fact that his (unique) abilities were not taken as seriously as they should have been because he plays for the Cincinnati Bengals.
No more. The Bengals have a new identity. The coaching of Zac Taylor and Lou Anarumo and the addition of talented players with big heart played a role in reshaping the identity of Mike Brown’s team. But, as the players and coaches articulate themselves, it is ultimately Burrow who has caused a rebirth of sorts.
Now the Bengals are going to their third Super Bowl in franchise history, and analysts have no idea how to approach the game. While the Los Angeles Rams have an intimidating pass rush, Burrow is such an outlier that, despite his line’s struggles, there is good reason to believe he can pull it—and anything else—off.
Check out our Super Bowl preview with Rams reporter Arash Markazi. We discussed the impact of Aaron Donald, Von Miller, and Jalen Ramsey, who Markazi believes will end up the Super Bowl MVP.
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