The Baltimore Ravens were on the receiving end of a historic performance from Cincinnati Bengals star Joe Burrow on December 26, as the second-year quarterback passed for more than 500 yards in a 41-21 thrashing of a heavily-depleted Baltimore defense.
Burrow revealed that his performance was motivated in part by the comments of Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale during a press conference leading up to the AFC North matchup in Cincinnati.
Martindale compared Burrow to Green Bay Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who beat the Ravens in Week 15 with 268 passing yards and three touchdowns.
“Aaron Rodgers is a Hall of Fame quarterback,” said Martindale on December 23, “and I don’t think we’re ready to buy a gold jacket for Joe yet.”
Martindale wasn’t necessarily inaccurate – Rodgers sits in the top 10 of every significant NFL all-time passing record, while Burrow hasn’t yet completed his second NFL season – but they did light a fire under Burrow, according to his postgame comments, as reported by Kelsey Conway of The Cincinnati Enquirer
When asked if Martindale’s comments resonated with him, Burrow answered, “I didn’t think it was a necessary comment,” though he clarified that he was not “offended” since he is only in his second year in the league.
Was it on his mind when he finished with an NFL-wide season-high 525 passing yards?
“Maybe,” Burrow responded with a wry smile.
It’s understandable why Burrow may have been extra motivated going up against the Ravens , given his history in previous matchups.
The Ravens gave Burrow a rude welcome to the NFL in their first meeting in 2020, sacking him seven times and forcing two fumbles. Burrow finished the game with just 183 passing yards, which was the lowest total of his entire rookie season. He was sidelined with a torn ACL during the teams’ second 2020 matchup, a 38-3 Ravens victory that clinched the top wild card spot for Baltimore.
How Historic Was Burrow’s Performance?
Burrow already showed the Ravens what he could do in their first game this season, totaling 416 passing yards and three touchdowns in an October 24 victory, but he reached even greater heights on December 26.
Burrow’s 525 passing yards are the the most in the league since 2012 and the fourth-most in a single game in NFL history, as well as a Ravens franchise record for passing yards allowed, per Statmuse.
He was just shy of throwing for 300 yards in the first half alone, finishing with 18 completions on 21 attempts for 299 yards, three touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating, per Pro Football Focus, allowing the Bengals to take a 31-14 lead into halftime.
Burrow didn’t let up in the second half, completing another 19 passes for 226 yards and another touchdown to keep the game firmly out of reach for Baltimore, despite the best efforts of Ravens third-string quarterback Josh Johnson playing in place of an injured Lamar Jackson and a COVID-positive Tyler Huntley.
Ravens Played 7 Practice Squad Defenders
Though Burrow played excellently against the Ravens, it’s worth noting the heavily-depleted state of Baltimore’s defense, especially their secondary.
Injuries have knocked out several Ravens defensive backs for the season, while the NFL’s recent outbreak of COVID-19 has sidelined cornerbacks Chris Westry and Jimmy Smith for the Ravens’ last two games. The Ravens had six other defenders on the Reserve/COVID-19 list heading to Cincinnati, including All-Pro outside linebacker Justin Houston.
Things didn’t get better against the Bengals, as starting cornerback Anthony Averett suffered a game-ending chest injury, per the Ravens’ Twitter account. That left Kevon Seymour and recent practice squad signing Daryl Worley as Baltimore’s outside cornerbacks, with Tavon Young in the slot.
All told, the Ravens had seven practice squad elevations playing defense in Cincinnati, which is not exactly a recipe for success against Burrow and an explosive Bengals offense that already torched a healthier Baltimore once this season.