CINCINNATI -- Joe Burrow said the Baltimore Ravens have the best cornerback duo the Cincinnati Bengals have seen so far this season -- and maybe the best in the league.
The Bengals (2-2) are looking forward to putting that tandem of Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey to the test Sunday when they meet the Ravens (2-2) in primetime Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
Cincinnati’s offense torched the Ravens’ defense last year in two blowout wins, possibly contributing to Baltimore’s decision to part ways with defensive coordinator Wink Martindale shortly after the end of the season. However, Peters wasn’t on the field for either of those games. He tore his ACL in a non-contract drill at practice just days before the 2021 opener and missed the entire season.
“They’re a little less aggressive than they were with (Martindale),” Burrow said. “They’re still the old Baltimore. They are going to get up and challenge you. They’re gonna pressure, they’re going to try and keep you on your heels. I think we have a good plan for them, but we know it’s going to be a challenge. They have the best cornerback duo we’ve played so far. They’re going to be a challenge for our guys and for me. So I think it’s an exciting challenge for us to go out and prove ourselves on primetime.”
Cincinnati’s offense produced its two best yardage totals of the 2021 season against the Ravens.
In the Bengals’ 41-17 win at Baltimore last year, Burrow threw for 416 yards and three touchdowns with one interception – picked off by Humphrey – and he took just one sack. Ja’Marr Chase played a big part, catching eight passes for 201 yards and one touchdown in his biggest game of the season up until topping those stats in the AFC North-clinching win over the Chiefs in Week 17.
Chase was still effective in the 41-21 win over the Ravens in Cincinnati last December, catching seven passes for 125 yards, but that was Tee Higgins’ day, finishing with 194 yards and two touchdowns on 12 catches as Burrow amassed a career-best 525 passing yards with four touchdowns.
Burrow isn’t expecting it to be that easy Sunday. Humphrey has two interceptions and two passes defensed in four games, and Peters has one interception, three passes defensed and one forced fumble in three games after missing the opener still working back from his knee injury. Safety Marcus Williams and defensive back Brandon Stephens also factor into the equation with Williams already owning three interceptions.
“I mean those guys have all of the confidence in the world in their abilities,” he said. “So they are going to come up and challenge the receivers and challenge me to make good throws in tight coverage. So we’ll see what happens.”
Chase said he was surprised in that second matchup last year when Baltimore double-teamed all three receivers on at least one route. Even that didn’t work.
On the play he recalled watching on film, Higgins went up for a jump ball on third-and-16 and caught a 52-yard pass to put the Bengals on the 3-yard line with a little more than a minute left before halftime, setting up his 1-yard touchdown reception a few plays later to put Cincinnati ahead 31-14.
The Bengals usually see a lot of double teams on at least two receivers at a time, but Burrow said he has come to expect Chase to be in those situations most of the time now.
“When you do get your one-on-one opportunities (with Chase), you have to take them because you’re not going to get a lot throughout the season or the game, you might get one or two, so when you do you have to take them,” Burrow said.
Chase credited Bengals coach Zac Taylor for his play calls and the plan the staff created going into the first matchup last year. That was the first game Chase moved around to all different spots, including the slot, and he recorded 105 of his receiving yards after the catch.
Humphrey was primarily covering him, but it could be either him or Peters on Sunday. The Ravens had been without Humphrey and Peters in the second matchup, and free agent cornerback Keyon Seymour was tasked with stopping Chase in that one.
“I’ve always thought I had a good run after catch, some YAC, but it’s not always easy when everybody is running at you,” Chase said. “Zac put me in a great position to make a move with the ball in my hands. I had a lot of room and space.”
Burrow said the biggest key to beating the Ravens’ defense will be not turning the ball over. Baltimore leads the league with 10 takeways so far.
“If we can limit those turnovers I think we’ll be able to move the ball up and down the field,” Burrow said. “They do a great job of getting pressure and getting tips at the line of scrimmage and capitalizing on those opportunities. We’re going to have to protect the ball, run the ball well and can’t get behind like we did the first two games.”
Bengals at Ravens, 8:20 p.m., NBC, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7