Burrow paid no heed to what Chase said to him.
Chase, on the other hand, embraced his quarterback’s promise.
“I didn’t want Joe to play tonight, and I told him that again,” Chase admitted afterward. “I wanted him to be at 100 percent. I didn’t want him to be out there false steppin’. I’ve been telling him that. It’s about future references. I just want to make sure he’s good in the future.”
Burrow — who strained his right calf muscle on July 27, missed all of training camp and the preseason and then reaggravated the injury early in the Baltimore Ravens game nine days ago — confided in Chase before the bright lights of Monday Night Football focused on both of them.
As they sat there, he said he told Chase he was playing against the Rams:
“I told him he was going to get a lot of opportunities today. ... I was going to feed my guy. He was due for one. I knew he was going to have a big game ... just from the way he was talking all week.”
When Chase — who’d voiced his displeasure after the Bengals started 0-2 and he was targeted less than usual and not used as the deep threat that he is — was reassured by Burrow before the game, he was, in the quarterback’s words, “Excited … He was excited!”
Chase agreed: “I just put my headphones in and said: ‘OK, it’s game time.’”
And what a game the third-year receiver had.
Although Burrow wasn’t 100 percent and didn’t scramble like usual or bank on his “bombs-away” downfield approach because it’s still tough for him to plant and push off on his back leg, he showed leadership, and grit and some real adaptability.
And no one helped him do it more than Chase, who had a career-high 12 catches for 141 yards as the Bengals held off the Rams, 19-16, and got their first win of the season.
Chase had several stellar plays:
»With his momentum taking him in the opposite direction early in the second quarter, he reached back and caught a ball that purposely was thrown behind him to avoid a defender and that enabled him to convert a 3rd-and-10 situation.
»He caught a pass deflected by the Rams to convert and 3rd-and-4 situation late in the first quarter.
»He tip-toed the sidelines for a catch.
»And he used a double move to get open as Burrow faked a toss, moved out of the pocket for one of the only times all night and completed the 43-yard passing play, his longest of the season.
Chase’s contribution’s — after having just 10 catches for 70 yards in the first two games — were especially important since Burrow, unable to move like usual, had to get rid of the ball quickly to avoid Aaron Donald, the Rams 280-pound, one-man wrecking crew.
Burrow also needed Chase to step up because his other prime target, Tee Higgins, borrowed the old Roberto Duran motto — “Manos de Piedra” (hands of stone) — on this night. He was targeted eight times, and uncharacteristically caught the ball just twice and had a pair of drops.
The Bengals scoring came on a lone touchdown — a 14-yard run by Joe Mixon in the third quarter that he culminated with a jump into the stands — and Evan McPherson field goals of 49, 53, 48 and 54 yards.
After the game Bengals head coach Zac Taylor commended Chase: “I have a high standard for Ja’Marr. We’re trying to find as many ways as we can to get him the ball. That’s not new. He stepped up to the challenge (tonight) and made some big plays.”
Chase explained his meet-the challenge mindset: “All I could do was just make Joe look good — that’s the best that I could do. He helps me look good. We help each other. We’ve got each other’s backs. That’s why our bond is so strong; our chemistry is so good.”
Bengals great Chad Johnson, who was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor alongside quarterback Boomer Esiason on Monday night, gave Chase a sartorial salute: He showed up at the stadium wearing a Chase jersey.
Afterward he had dinner with Chase’s parents — Jimmy and Toleah — at Jeff Ruby’s and noted on social media:
“So happy Ja’Marr Chase mom and dad came to dinner with me tonight since my parents are no longer here to celebrate with me, this was super dope & I’m very grateful.”
While Burrow and Chase drew most of the postgame spotlight, the real story of the game for the Bengals was their defense, which gave Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford a Monday Night nightmare.
He was sacked six times, hit while throwing nine times and threw two interceptions.
“Our defense is underrated,” Chase said. “They need to get more recognition than they have. Tonight, they were crazy the way they played.”
The Bengals feasted on a patched-up Rams offensive front, especially defensive end Trey Hendrickson, who managed two sacks while abusing back-up left tackle Zach Thomas, who took over for injured starter Alaric Jackson.
Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson intercepted Stafford twice and, in the process, showed some of the skills he had at Wyoming, where he started his college career as a defensive back,
“Yeah, that part has never left me,” he said with a laugh.
Wilson had high praise for Burrow afterward: “That’s the type of guy that you want leading this team and this organization. That’s why they pay him the big bucks.”
Defensive lineman Sam Hubbard felt similar: “I have the utmost respect for Joe. His toughness showed tonight and the whole team fed off it.”
As he stood at his locker after the game, Chase was asked how long he thinks it will be until Joe Burrow shows his old form.
“I think he already has,” he said. “He just proved it tonight playing hurt.
“I didn’t want him to play tonight, and I told him that again after the game.
“I said, ‘You played hurt. Boy, you got some real .... !’”
This time he said Joe Burrow listened to him.