CINCINNATI — Bengals coach Zac Taylor didn’t hesitate when asked whether quarterback Joe Burrow should be in contention to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award.
“Absolutely,” Taylor said.
Burrow added to his growing list of credentials in a statement 27-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Burrow became the first quarterback to beat K.C. quarterback Patrick Mahomes in three straight games. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tom Brady is the only other quarterback to have that many victories versus Mahomes, the 2018 MVP.
Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase firmly agreed with his coach about Burrow’s MVP candidacy.
“He’s one of the best quarterbacks in this league,” Chase said. “Everybody knows that. He should be in the MVP race. If he’s not in it, he should be. Number one quarterback in the race.”
Burrow was 25-of-31 passing for 286 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday.
Cincinnati (8-4) entered the fourth quarter trailing Kansas City (9-3) by a touchdown before things turned in the Bengals’ favor. After linebacker Germaine Pratt stripped the ball out of Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce’s grip and recovered the fumble, Burrow and the offense went to work.
With the Bengals trailing 24-20 at that point, Cincinnati went on a 10-play drive capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass from Burrow to running back Chris Evans. That was Burrow’s ninth passing score in the fourth quarter, the most by any quarterback in the NFL this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Taylor was quick to praise Burrow’s pass protection on Sunday. Burrow was not pressured on 27 of his pass attempts, per NFL Next Gen Stats, and was sacked just once.
But the third-year player proved slippery throughout the day. He had a career-high 11 carries for 46 yards and one rushing touchdown. He now has five rushing touchdowns, matching Jack Thompson’s 1979 record for the most by a Bengals quarterback in a single season.
“He has great size and elusiveness,” Kansas City defensive end Frank Clark said. “People don’t really put a lot of respect on his name when it comes to how elusive he is in the pocket and his pocket presence.”
Taylor, the team’s playcaller, put the ball in Burrow’s hands to seal the game and end Kansas City’s streak of 14 consecutive victories in the month of December, a stretch that dates back to Mahomes’ first year as a starter in 2018.
On third-and-11, Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins said he and Tyler Boyd thought Cincinnati was going to run the ball to chew up some clock. Higgins said the receivers looked at Burrow in the huddle and asked him a simple question: run or pass?
“He said, ‘Pass,'” Higgins said. “We all looked at each other. He said, ‘Let’s get it done.'”
Burrow and the Bengals did just that. He found Higgins for a 14-yard completion that effectively ended the game.
Both of Cincinnati’s victories against Kansas City last season came on winning field goals as time expired. Against the AFC’s top team so far in 2022, the winning margin was bigger.
Burrow shrugged off the MVP discussion from Taylor and his teammates.
“I don’t play the game for those kinds of accolades,” Burrow said. “I play the game for those guys in the locker room. What it takes from me every Sunday, that’s what I’ll do. If I have to hand the ball off 72 times and come out with a win, I’ll be happy.”
Entering Sunday, Burrow ranked third in the NFL in fourth-quarter QBR, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
When Cincinnati needed big plays against one of the NFL’s best teams and quarterbacks, Burrow delivered.
“He’s playing at the level we need for him to lead us, to be confident that we can win every game we play,” Taylor said, adding that there’s no doubt about Burrow’s standing in the MVP conversation. “I’ve said it before. I wouldn’t trade him for anybody in the world.”
ESPN’s Adam Teicher contributed to this report.