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Joe Burrow is getting ready to play in the biggest game of his young NFL career.
As Cincinnati's franchise quarterback prepares for the upcoming matchup with the Baltimore Ravens (8-6) for first place in the AFC North, he singular focus remains on how can he help his team win.
He's also not denying the performance of a starting quarterback matters in these types of games more so than others. And he's ready to meet those expectations head on.
"At the end of the day, quarterbacks, their play is determined on how they play in the big games, and the big games happen in December and in the playoffs," Burrow said.
Burrow is not one who gets rattled in big games. In fact, he thrives in pressure situations. He's won a College Football Playoff national championship, Heisman Trophy and brought the Bengals back in several games in which they were down multiple scores.
He's 25 years old and plays beyond his years from a performance and maturity standpoint. It's almost as if Burrow prefers to enter games with an immense amount of pressure or even a little doubt.
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So, where does this poised, confident mentality come from? Burrow says his background in being a three-sport athlete in Athens, Ohio all those years helps tremendously.
“I’ve put myself in these situations in my head over-and-over again. I think growing up being a three-sport athlete helped me a lot. Just competing over-and-over-and-over again. Whether it’s football, basketball, baseball. You put yourself in those situations, eventually you’re going to be comfortable in the situations and you’re going to be able to perform."
Despite only playing in 10 games in his rookie season before suffering a season-ending knee injury, Burrow did more than show he is capable of being the Bengals' franchise quarterback.
Expectations from the outside were tempered heading into this season regarding Burrow and this Bengals team. It's hard to predict how a player will recover following a gruesome injury like the one he had. Not only has Burrow exceeded expectations of himself, he's largely the reason Cincinnati is on the brink of their first playoff berth since 2015.
No one ever questioned Burrow's accuracy and how it could translate in the NFL. But what made him such a unique prospect is his sneaky athleticism. No, he's not capable of making some of the plays Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray can make with their feet, but he's capable of making plays with his feet when he has to and it was on display in the Bengals' Week 15 win over the Broncos.
This part of Burrow's game shouldn't be understated. Getting his confidence back in terms of being able to make plays with his legs was something Burrow needed time to feel out.
And as he said following the win in Denver, he's back and could be better than ever. And it couldn't be happening at a better time for the Bengals.
"I'm comfortable back there," Burrow said. "I think I'm finally getting back to where I was pre-injury as far as my movement in the pocket and in being able to extend the play. I've been able to do that a couple times these last few games that I've felt really comfortable in, and I'm not even really thinking about it anymore, which is exciting for me, because I wasn't really making those plays at the beginning of the year. So I'm finally getting back to myself. And I think that's just gonna open up even more for us."
One of the defining moments for Burrow and his team came on Oct. 24 when the Bengals went on the road and dominated the Ravens. In the 41-17 win over Baltimore, Burrow threw for 416 yards and three touchdowns.
He'll likely need a similar performance against the Ravens this time around as Baltimore will be trying to flip the script from the last performance. Much of the Bengals' postseason fate will likely fall on Burrow's shoulders and he's ready to relish in the opportunity, starting on Sunday.
"I'm light years from last year," Burrow said. "Obviously, last year you see a lot of new things that you haven't really seen before. You also, as a rookie, teams throw more at you to see if you can handle it. This year, a lot of those blitz looks and coverage looks, we proved early in the year that we can handle it and we're going to get the ball out quickly and we're going to make teams pay. And we haven't seen as many of those looks later in the season. But, with Baltimore, you've always got to be ready for that."
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow talks about Baltimore Ravens