Joe Burrow has set a new standard in Cincinnati as the reigning AFC champion Bengals look to defend their title against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Having already ended the franchise’s 32-year AFC Championship Game drought this time last year, the third-year Bengals quarterback isn’t surprised or overwhelmed by the consistent success that’s coincided with his arrival.
“I wouldn’t say it’s surreal,” Burrow told reporters on Friday. “I would say that winning is expected.”
Burrow acknowledged that many outside of the organization may not have expected the Bengals to become perennial Super Bowl contenders so quickly. It wasn’t all that long ago the Bengals went 2-14 before selecting Burrow the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Cincinnati produced a 4-11-1 record during Burrow’s rookie season, which was marred by the QB’s torn ACL in Week 10, and it continued a frustrating storyline for Cincinnati that included five consecutive losing seasons and an ongoing eight-game playoff losing streak dating back to 1990.
The Bengals have since gone 5-1 in the playoffs with Burrow at the helm as they look to make consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
“I think if you would’ve told people that we were going to be in this spot a couple of years ago, I think people would say we were crazy,” said Burrow. “But we trusted the process, trusted the organization and the front office and put together a great team and great people and got us to this point.”
Getting to Super Bowl LVII will require toppling the Chiefs on the road in the AFC Championship Game for the second straight season. It’s a game headlined by two of the NFL’s brightest star QBs in Burrow and Patrick Mahomes, but the showdown is about as even a match can get between two well-rounded teams.
It’s also one we saw in Week 13, when Burrow authored a fourth-quarter comeback win over Kansas City. Burrow completed 25 of 31 passes for 286 yards, two touchdowns and added a rushing score in the victory, which kept his record against the Chiefs perfect in three total matchups in the regular season and playoffs.
Going into Sunday, Burrow is expecting a different Chiefs team than the one he saw in early December and recognized that every team evolves over the course of the season, including the Bengals themselves.
The Bengals QB also acknowledged the growth of the Chiefs’ young secondary in recent weeks.
“Their rookie corners — both of them are getting better and better each week,” Burrow said. “You can tell they put in a lot of work for what they do, and they’re two of the better corners we’ve played so far.”
While Burrow isn’t afraid to exude his confidence — perhaps best exemplified by him saying the Bengals’ Super Bowl window is “my whole career” — the 26-year-old isn’t thinking about the outlook of his legacy in the moment, which he believes is a key to his consistent success.
Said Burrow: “I just think during the season you’re so dialed in week to week, I don’t think it’s really possible to think about those general, long-term questions, especially if you want to be successful.”