Browning's 354-yard performance rekindles Bengals' playoff hopes
CINCINNATI (AP) — With Joe Burrow out for the season, the Cincinnati Bengals’ chances of making the playoffs seemed slim.
Jake Browning’s performance on Monday night has rekindled those hopes.
Burrow’s backup threw for 354 yards and a touchdown in his second start. He also had a 1-yard TD run and a 21-yard scramble in the Bengals’ 34-31 overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“He just lit the world on fire,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said.
It was much better than Browning’s four-sack performance in a loss to the Steelers. The Bengals also had 156 yards on the ground to take some of the pressure off him.
“I feel like I play my best football when I’m just calm and not really thinking about anything,” Browning said. “Just operating on offense and delivering the ball to our playmakers.”
In the third quarter, Browning recognized single coverage on Ja’Marr Chase and despite being under pressure, lofted a pass that Chase took 76 yards for a touchdown. Chase had 11 catches for 149 yards.
“I think part of the reason we had that one-on-one coverage is because we ran the ball so well,” Browning said.
Back in October, Cincinnati won four straight games with Burrow finally healthy. At 5-3, the Bengals were back in the thick of the AFC North race. With Burrow out, they are now 6-6. But still in the hunt for a playoff spot.
“Even though we lost one of our best players, there is confidence other guys are going to step up and help us win a lot of games down the stretch,” Taylor said.
The Bengals have the league’s worst rushing attack, but the addition of rookie Chase Brown added a spark on Monday night. Brown ran for 61 yards and Joe Mixon ran for 68 yards and two TDs. Mixon also had six receptions for 49 yards.
“It helped us get a really good rhythm on offense and I think keep them off balance,” Taylor said.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Taylor’s play-calling has been criticized this season. He called a good game on Monday night, mixing the run and pass to keep Browning in rhythm. But two ill-advised trick plays didn’t work so well. One resulted in a 7-yard loss, the other in Josh Allen’s interception of Tyler Boyd’s pass leading to a Jaguars touchdown.
“We executed it well and practice it all season,” Taylor said. “It took a little longer than we normally anticipate. Josh made a good play.”
Brown only had 11 snaps Monday night, but he made the most of them, rushing for 61 yards on nine carries. He also had a career-long 31-yard run. The 2023 fifth-round pick from the University of Illinois came off injured reserve last week. He had only two rushing attempts this season prior to Monday night.
The defense struggled to get stops all night, and after Trevor Lawrence was injured. Jaguars backup quarterback C.J. Beathard completed 9 of 10 passes for 63 yards to put the Jaguars in position for Brandon McManus’ 40-yard game-tying field goal with 26 seconds remaining in regulation. Lawrence completed 22 of 29 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a score before leaving in the fourth quarter.
The Bengals placed cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt on injured reserve on Monday with an ankle injury.
491 — Bengals total yards in the overtime win.
If the Burrow-less Bengals are going to reach the playoffs, they’ll need to overcome a tough stretch of games to finish the season. The Bengals host the Colts and Vikings the next two weeks then have to travel to Pittsburgh and Kansas City before hosting the Browns in the season finale.
“You need this in December to see that we’ll win this way because you’re going to be in other games like this as the stretch comes,” Taylor said. “I think that’s good for our team to have endured that on the road.”
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