Joe Burrow did everything in his power during the stretch of the season to lead the Bengals to the AFC North title.
The entire campaign for Burrow had been an impressive turnaround after he tore both his ACL and ACL in his left knee during his rookie season, helping make him a strong case for Return to Player of the Year. Anus.
But in the last two games he played in, matchups against AFC North rival the Ravens and the AFC champion of the past two years, the Chiefs, Burrow took his game to another level. He passed for nearly 1,000 yards and passed for four touchdowns in each game, handing Cincinnati wins in each to clinch the division title and give the starters a day off in Week 18.
What does that stretch mean for the Bengals and where did they rank in history? Sporting News breaks it down.
Joe Burrow Stats
Coming off a win against the Broncos in Week 15, the Bengals needed to beat the Ravens, a loss to the Browns and a win in at least one more game down the stretch to finish the season as AFC North champions.
Before Cincinnati took the field in Week 16, the Browns lost to the Packers on Christmas Day, meaning the Bengals only needed to beat Baltimore and win one more game the rest of the year to be crowned champions. That game, Burrow put up career-best numbers, passing for 525 yards and four touchdowns on an 80.4 completion percentage against a battered Ravens team to beat Baltimore for a 41-21 win. It was a single game passing record for Cincinnati and the fourth most in a single game in NFL history.
Somehow, Burrow managed to find a way to improve the performance. Playing against a stronger opponent and healthier defense in Kansas City, Burrow completed 76.9 percent of his passes for 446 yards with four more touchdowns to help the Bengals win 34-31, secure the division crown and send Cincinnati to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
The last two games wrapped up what was a remarkable sophomore campaign for Burrow. He finished the season with a 70.4 percent completion percentage, 4,611 passing yards, 34 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. His passing yards and passing touchdowns were the most in a single season in Cincinnati franchise history, while his completion percentage was the best among qualified QBs in the NFL in 2021.
He also ranked sixth in passing yards and eighth in passing touchdowns in the NFL, and led the league with 8.9 yards per attempt.
professional soccer focus ranked him the second-best QB in the league for offensive production (91.7) and No. 1 for pure approval rating (91.2).
Most passing yards in two consecutive games
During those final two games of the season, Burrow collectively threw for 971 yards with eight touchdowns, a 78.8 percent completion percentage and no interceptions.
The game put him in rare company and he nearly broke the record for most passing yards in consecutive games.
First off, Dak Prescott was on another level to start 2020 (1,424 passing yards in three games is an impressive streak). But another aspect that makes Burrow’s performance even more impressive is that, unlike the other quarterbacks, his came at the end of the season with his team needing wins to reach the postseason, while the others came earlier in the season.
What adds to the impressiveness is how well-rounded Burrow’s games were. The Bengals QB is one of three quarterbacks to have multiple games of 400+ passing yards, four touchdowns and no interception in a game, joining Peyton Manning from 2013 and Jared Goff from 2018. He is the only quarterback to field that has multiples where he also completed at least 70 percent of his passes in each game.
That’s getting touchy, but it underscores the accuracy Burrow has shown this season. There are games where quarterbacks air it out to catch up or just target a weak pass defense, but maintaining a 70 percent completion percentage is tough. He did it in two games where he also threw for more than 400 yards.
Joe Burrow for Most Valuable Player?
So does Burrow have a case for MVP? Surely.
FanDuel bookmaker currently lists Burrow as having the third-best odds to win MVP (+2,500), though well behind Aaron Rodgers (-500) and Tom Brady (+400).
Burrow’s season has put him in rare company. Only 20 quarterbacks in NFL history had a season in which they threw at least 8.5 yards per attempt and completed 30 touchdown passes. according to Stathead. Nine of those campaigns ended with the winning QB MVP. Seven of those quarterbacks are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Among the names not in the Hall of Fame are Brady, Rodgers, Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes and Philip Rivers.
Obviously, Rodgers and Brady will be tough to beat. Rodgers led the NFL in quarterback ranking and threw for the fewest interceptions (four) and fourth-most touchdowns (37), along with 4,115 passing yards. Brady led the league in passing yards (5,316) and passing touchdowns (43).
But don’t rule Burrow out of the running. He turned Cincinnati from the fifth-worst team in the NFL to a division champion. Not to mention, repeat MVPs are rare, as the last player to accomplish the feat was Peyton Manning in 2008 and 2009.
On Saturday, Burrow will look to make a statement and give the Bengals their first playoff victory since 1991, when they take on the Raiders at 4:30 pm ET.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.