15 catches?! Ja'Marr Chase called for the ball, then set a Bengals record in Arizona

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It usually isn't hard to figure out what is on Ja'Marr Chase's mind.

The Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver will say it, as he did after a Week 4 loss to the Tennessee Titans when he respectfully (and vulgarly) said he’s always open, and Chase will show it.

That's what happened early in Sunday's 34-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals. On Cincinnati's first offensive drive of the game, Chase streaked across the back of the end zone. After the ball went to running back Joe Mixon on a checkdown, Chase clapped his hands after the play ended, indicating a scoring opportunity was missed.

One play later, he was celebrating his first touchdown of the season. Quarterback Joe Burrow zipped a ball between two defenders to Chase, giving Cincinnati its first points of the game and ending Chase's longest touchdown drought in the NFL.

Chase finished the day with a record-breaking performance, showing why he has earned many privileges so early in his career — the platform to speak boldly about his ability, the right to command a large role in the offense, and also, as early as next year, the opportunity be one of the NFL's highest-paid wide receivers.

“Nothing really surprises you,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said about Chase following the win. “You just keep finding ways to get him the ball.”

That happened plenty against the Cardinals. Chase's 15 receptions broke a franchise record set by Carl Pickens in 1998. The two-time Pro Bowler also finished with 192 receiving yards, the third-highest total of his career and his second three-touchdown game in three NFL seasons. Burrow, in his best game since he suffered a strained right calf in training camp, targeted Chase 19 times on a day when starting wide receiver Tee Higgins was out with a rib injury.

Until Sunday, the Bengals (2-3) offense floundered as Chase and Burrow answered questions about just three offensive touchdowns through four games and Chase experiencing a usual streak of unproductivity.

After the Bengals started the season with two straight losses, Chase told the media that he wanted to be thrown deep balls, a message delivered before a 1-on-1 meeting with offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. A couple of weeks later, after the Titans crushed the Bengals in a 27-3 win, Chase told reporters he was “always f-----g open” when asked if there was anything he could do to create more separation.

The quip went viral and Chase thought he would earn the ire of Taylor for his comments. Instead, the coach said he loved the confidence displayed.

“He works as hard as anybody,” Taylor said on Friday. “Which when you work as hard as anybody, you're allowed to have some confidence and talk like that. I got problems with people that don't work hard and then if you say things that are maybe on the fringe on the line a little bit, you're not putting in the work, you're not doing all the things.

“Ja'Marr does everything.”

Chase backed up his comments by making massive plays against the Cardinals. After his first score, he and Burrow connected for one of their longest plays -- a 63-yard touchdown that traveled 51 air yards, the most on a completed pass in Burrow's four-year career, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Chase and Burrow linked up again with the Bengals clinging to a 24-20 lead in the fourth quarter. This time, Burrow evaded pressure, moved to his right and found Chase, who'd broken off his route to streak along the sideline.

Defenses have been fixated on stopping Chase ever since his breakout rookie season in 2021. The Bengals have countered that by lining him in different spots in hopes of finding him more favorable matchups.

On Sunday, the Cardinals had no answer.

“The scheme is run through him,” said Cardinals safety K'Von Wallace. Anytime you have a scheme run through you, either you'll perform or you're going to go below the standard. He played to his standard.”

Chase said the offense's performance showed the unit is a step closer to getting back on track after a rocky start to the season in which they'd failed to score more than 27 points in any game. The game showed how the offense could look with Chase and Burrow as the focal point.

Higgins and Tyler Boyd -- Cincinnati's other starting receivers -- are in the final year of their respective contracts. Chase is eligible for an extension after this season and made it clear he wants a massive deal in the ballpark of any deal Minnesota Vikings receiver -- and former LSU teammate -- Justin Jefferson will receive.

“I'm hoping he sets the mark for me,” Chase said back in August.

If Burrow and Chase are to command a large chunk of the team's salary cap in future years, they will be expected to have games like they did on Sunday. Burrow understands Chase's importance to the offense.

“He's obviously one of the best in the league,” Burrow said after the game. “So we're going to continue to feed him.”

With Chase's help, the Bengals went from a 1-3 start to believing they can be a Super Bowl contender for a third straight year.

“We've definitely faced adversity from the jump,” Chase said. “Right now we're just getting that wagon going again and moving forward.”