Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey said earlier this week that Cincinnati Bengals rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase has made the NFL look easy. Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale called the Bengals’ first-round draft pick a hybrid of the Cleveland Browns’ do-it-all threat Odell Beckham Jr. and Los Angeles Rams speedster DeSean Jackson.
When the Ravens lost to the Bengals, 41-17, on Sunday afternoon, Chase might have put himself in a category of his own, as he delivered a historic performance more suited for a veteran.
Chase had 201 receiving yards and a touchdown on eight receptions and 10 targets, becoming the first rookie receiver since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Mike Evans in 2014 to have 200 receiving yards and a touchdown in a game. The former LSU standout is also the fifth rookie receiver to have 200 or more yards in a single game since 2001.
Chase’s 754 yards are the the most by any player in his first seven games since 1970.
“We wanted to do better against him,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Obviously, our plans did not work, and he made it look easy today as well.”
In the first of what should be many matchups between Humphrey and Chase, the 6-foot wideout clearly had the upper hand. Chase’s speed and route running were too much for Humphrey, who has made a career out of shutting down the opponent’s top receiver.
According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Humphrey shadowed Chase on 19 of the rookie’s first 27 routes Sunday. Chase caught all four targets against Humphrey for 138 yards and a touchdown, the most yards allowed by a defender to any receiver in a game this season.
“Going into this week, the biggest assignment was on me to kind of stop their top guy, and I lost that matchup,” Humphrey said. “A lot of it, kind of, is on me. I’ve just got to play better, especially when the game plan is for me to have a big day. The coaches put the trust in me to kind of lead the defense, lead the game plan, [and] I’ve just got to execute better.”
During the final seconds of the first half with the game tied at 10, Chase made a nice move on Humphrey before cutting across the middle and catching a pass from quarterback Joe Burrow for a 26-yard reception that helped set up a 30-yard field goal that gave the Bengals a 13-10 lead at halftime.
Chase completely silenced the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium — and all but sealed the game — in the third quarter. He caught a short pass on a slant route, broke Humphrey’s tackle attempt and two more before jetting down the field for an 82-yard touchdown to put the Bengals up 27-17. Humphrey was left kneeling down the field, as Chase did the “griddy dance” in the end zone.
“I’ve been watching [Marlon] Humphrey’s film day and night to get the best idea I can have of him,” Chase said. “I know he’s such a great corner.”
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According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Chase gained 76 yards after catch, which was 73 more than over expected, the most gained on any play in the past four seasons.
“He broke a snap route on third down and scored a touchdown,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “He’s dynamic; he’s smart; he just makes plays with the ball in his hand.”
During the Bengals’ next offensive drive, Humphrey was beaten by Chase once again. The Bengals were pinned at the Ravens’ 36-yard line with 17 seconds left in the third when Burrow threw a 27-yard pass to Chase near the sideline. He made a tough catch over Humphrey before he fumbled the ball out of bounds.
“There were several times in the second half where there is zero check where he had Marlon Humphrey — who I think is the best corner in the league, and [the Ravens] play that way because they have that guy to play a zero blitz and put him one-on-one,” said Burrow, who finished with 416 passing yards, three touchdowns and a pick. “Ja’Marr did a great job against him today. There are multiple times where he got that guy one-on-one and won his one-on-one matchup.”
The only play where Humphrey had the upper hand came in the fourth quarter, when Burrow threw off his back foot towards Chase in double coverage in the end zone. Humphrey was able to leap into the air and intercept the ball with 14:55 to go.
However, the Ravens couldn’t take advantage of the turnover, as they failed to convert on third down. Bengals running Joe Mixon ran for a 21-yard touchdown soon after, extending the lead to 34-17.
“I guess I’ll look at the film and kind of figure it out,” Humphrey said. “I think things just didn’t go our way early. So, as [Martindale] says, it’s not as bad as it seems; but right now, it seems pretty bad. So, I’ll look at the film and kind of figure it out.”