Cincinnati Bengals Observations From an Improbable Night in Jacksonville

Jake Browning's coming out party and a resurgent run game highlighted the Cincinnati Bengals' OT win at Jacksonville on Monday Night Football.

The Cincinnati Bengals snapped a 15-game losing streak on the road in prime time with backup Jake Browning looking nothing like a quarterback making his second career start for a team that was a 10-point underdog.

The Bengals also were 4-35 when trailing entering the fourth quarter in the Zac Taylor era, but they rallied from 28-21 down to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 34-31 on Evan McPherson’s 48-yard field goal in overtime.

The win came after the Jaguars lost starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence to an ankle injury one play before Brandon McManus missed a 48-yard field goal that would have given Jacksonville the lead with five minutes left in regulation.

The victory snaps a three-game losing streak overall for the Bengals and raises their record to 6-6, keeping alive their slim playoff hopes.

How Did the Bengals Upset the Jaguars?

Coming Out Party

Jake Browning was nearly perfect in the first half, going 17-of-19 for 178 yards while directing a pair of touchdown drives.

Bengals head coach Zac Taylor did a nice job of easing Browning into the flow of the game with a lot of short receiver screens to Ja’Marr Chase early before opening things up with a lot of bootlegs and intermediate-range shots after a couple of empty possessions.

Browning looked comfortable pre-snap, moving guys around and calling out the protections, and he was unflappable after the snap as well. On one play, he play-faked to Joe Mixon, spun to his left, and had a Jacksonville defender right in his face. Instead of panicking or dirting the ball, he flicked it to Mitch Wilcox for a 12-yard gain and a first down.

And on the first series of the second half, on 3rd-and-2, Browning took his first real deep shot and connected with Ja’Marr Chase on a 76-yard touchdown — the longest play of the year for the Bengals.

Taylor said he was impressed with what Browning did on first and second down in his NFL starting debut last week against Pittsburgh, but he needed to see improvement on third down. He got that and more tonight against Jacksonville, converting six of the first eight third downs.

Browning’s biggest mistakes were a pair of false starts on the drive to try to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. But he got the yardage needed to put Evan McPherson in range for the game-winning 54-yard field goal.

One of his best throws came on a 3rd-and-7 out route to Tee Higgins in overtime to get the Bengals in field goal range.

Browning finished 32-of-37 for 354 yards and a touchdown.

Trick Play SNAFUs

With Bengals head coach and play-caller Zac Taylor going against his younger brother Press, the play-caller for the Jaguars, you knew there were gonna be some trick plays unveiled.

Zac and the Bengals wasted little time, trying one in the first quarter with a handoff to Ja’Marr Chase and a throwback to Browning, but Chase slipped before the throw and the play went for minus-seven yards to blow up a promising drive.

MORE: Cincinnati Bengals Depth Chart

It was unclear if the pass from Chase to Browning was supposed to be backward, enabling Browning to chuck it downfield. But Browning has great speed, so maybe the plan was to get him in space and catch the Jaguars off guard. Either way, the loss set up 3rd-and-13 and the Bengals ended up settling for a 57-yard Evan McPherson field goal attempt that hit the crossbar.

Then in the second half, they tried again with an even bigger disaster. On the first play after the Jaguars had tied the game at 21-21, Browning threw a backward pass to Tyler Boyd, who tried to throw across the field to Joe Mixon and instead threw it right to Jacksonville’s Josh Allen for a game-changing interception as the Jaguars scored four plays later to take a 28-21 lead.

Run Game Resurgence

After rushing for just 25 yards on 11 carries last week against Pittsburgh, the Bengals came out committed to the run against the Jaguars, and with a new weapon as rookie running back Chase Brown got his first carries of the year.

The Bengals went to Brown on the second play of the game and then again a few plays later on a 2nd-and-13, with him getting six yards to make it a manageable third down.

On the second drive, Brown broke a tackle — something we haven’t seen much from Joe Mixon this season — and went for 15 yards, then he ripped off an 8-yard run to start the third drive.

And on the first play after the Jaguars went ahead 28-21, Brown had the longest run of the year for the Bengals, a 32-yarder.

MORE: PFN’s FREE NFL Playoff Predictor

Meanwhile, Mixon capped off both of the first two scoring drives with some hard running in the red zone for his first multi-touchdown game of the season.

The Bengals are always going to be a pass-first team, but tonight was a great example of how effective the offense can be when mixing in some rushes.

Mixon had 19 carries for 68 yards, and Brown had nine rushes for 61 yards as part of the team’s season-high 156.

Awuzie’s Audition

Monday afternoon’s announcement that starting cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt is going on injured reserve with an ankle injury gives veteran Chidobe Awuzie at least a four-week audition for a new contract and — likely — a new team in 2024.

Awuzie is in the final year of the three-year, $28.1-million contract he signed ahead of 2021. After splitting time with rookie DJ Turner all season, Awuzie returned to the full-time starter role last week against Pittsburgh with Taylor-Britt out with a quad injury.

Monday night against Jacksonville, Awuzie played well, including a big pass breakup on the first play of the second half, leading to a Jaguars three-and-out.

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