If it seems like Joe Burrow took his game to another level down the stretch this season, there's a good reason for that.
The Cincinnati Bengals quarterback told reporters that the difference in his surgically repaired left knee is "night and day from the first half of the season" and that he's "starting to finally feel like myself" as he prepares to lead the team into Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.
Burrow suffered a torn ACL and MCL, among other structural damage, in a Week 11 game against the Washington Football Team during his rookie season in 2020.
Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed the surgery, told NFL Network's Ian Rapaport that it became evident in November and December that Burrow was much closer to full strength than when the season began:
"The thing you saw towards November and December was what everybody had seen at LSU —that he could run. The kid could run and evade people and he was elusive. If you watch him on film and see where he was that first game, you notice he got better and better as the season went on. And his throwing was there, he was throwing the ball well, but he started to do more with difficult pass routes as the season went on. That indicates he's very confident."
Over the final four games of the regular season, starting Dec. 12 against the San Francisco 49ers, Burrow threw for 1,476 yards, 11 touchdowns, zero interceptions and completed 75.9 percent of his attempts.
Burrow's elusiveness was never more evident than in Cincinnati's 27-24 overtime victory against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. He tied a season high with 25 rushing yards, with 18 coming on two crucial third-down scrambles as he evaded Kansas City's pass rush to help set up the Evan McPherson field goal that put the Bengals up 24-21 midway through the fourth quarter.
If Burrow can avoid a Los Angeles Rams pass rush that features Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Leonard Floyd, the Bengals will be in a fantastic position to win their first championship in franchise history.
The Rams and Bengals will kick off Super Bowl LVI from SoFi Stadium at 6:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.