Leaving Ja’Marr Chase in a one-on-one situation on the outside with little-to-no safety help is becoming one of the worst defensive decisions in football.
The rookie wideout went berserk against Kansas City in Cincinnati’s monstrous Week 17 comeback win, and he especially scorched the Chiefs secondary when it left Chase on an island on the perimeter.
In those situations — man coverage on the outside without a safety shading his way at the snap — Chase compiled 166 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions as part of his 11-grab, 266-yard, three-touchdown loud statement on Sunday.
Let’s get to the specifics on a few of those grabs before highlighting more receiving brilliance Chase showcased against the Chiefs.
He’s 21 but has already mastered the art of the subtle push off after hand-fighting down the field with the corner. Chase illustrated that veteran-esque maneuver on this 18-yard touchdown to make it a one-score game in the second.
Note his confidence to hold the ball in one hand, away from his body to protect it. That was a theme in this game and another reason the downfield shot play to Chase in single coverage is essentially uncoverable.
On the game-winning drive, Chase showcased more seasoned-pro intricacies while staying true to what he knows works in those contested-catch situations.
He won this route at the beginning of the play with a quick jab to the inside that freed room near the boundary. Then, after looking to locate the football, Chase waited until the absolute last second to flash his hands to secure the football before, again, holding onto it well outside his frame to avoid a pass breakup.
Remember — Chase isn’t a 6-foot-4 behemoth. He’s a shade under 6-1. He has to be spectacular with his technique to be that good in those tight-window, jump-ball scenarios.
Soon thereafter, Chase delivered the dagger, a 30-yard gain on 3rd and 27 to put the Bengals in field-goal range. And it looks nearly identical to the most recent play I highlighted, but I promise it’s a different snap.
Gotta hand it to Joe Burrow on that one too — a gorgeous dime was dropped. Chase’s supreme body control was evident, as he had to flip his hips toward the sideline after finding it in the air. Totally smooth. No problem.
This season, Chase has six touchdowns on throws made 20 or more yards down the field. The most in the NFL. And Chase’s 541 yards on deep balls is the second-most in football.
But you rarely amass 266 yards receiving on straight go balls all afternoon, and Chase did damage after the catch, the facet of his game I — along with my draft analysts — believed was just as strong as his ability to track the football down the field.
On his first touchdown, a ridiculous 72-yarder, Chase teleported his body back to LSU in 2019. He caught the ball on the 39-yard-line and wasn’t satisfied with simply moving the chains, immediately lifting his head and running to daylight. All he needed was one juke of linebacker Nick Bolton, and the jets were flipped on.
Cherish that score. Watch it again. Because it was simply something you rarely see in the NFL. A player making everyone else on the field look slow and unathletic. By the way, Chase ran 4.34 at the LSU Pro Day two years ago. He can scoot.
And how about another scary proposition for defenses — Chase on a screen. Notice how he actually backtracks a step to give his blockers an extra second to get in front of the play. He then set up the defender to the outside before cutting back inside and spinning forward for extra yardage. Nuanced athletic brilliance there.
Chase is the total package. Releases off the line. Sharp routes. Amazing body control. Outstanding ball skills. Super-fluid YAC skills with field-flipping speed. And he demonstrated his entire advanced skill set in arguably the best receiver performance of the regular season in Week 17.
And Chase reminded everyone, regardless of your defensive game plan or philosophy, you probably don’t want to leave a cornerback alone with him in man coverage on the outside.