B.J. Hill said it about as well as anyone could:
“There sure is a lot of people outside this building who gave up on us,” Hill said after the Bengals’ win over the Vikings. “And you can’t give up on a team like this. If you try to call us out, we’re gonna prove you wrong.”
“What did we say at halftime?” Bengals coach Zac Taylor asked in the locker room after the game. “[We] Don’t care what the score is, just find a way to get the win.”
And win they did. Backup quarterback Jake Browning, who had suffered through his worst half of the season in the first half, got the second half started with an interception. But he bounced back to throw for 184 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime.
In the process, Browning became just the fourth quarterback in the past two years to throw for at least that many yards and two or more scores after the first three quarters.
Tee Higgins, who had dropped a couple of catchable balls early, helped ignite Cincinnati’s comeback with a 13-yard touchdown reception to open the fourth quarter. But it was his leaping, twisting, incredible scoring effort with 39 seconds left that sent the game into overtime.
Tyler Boyd, who had been held to just one reception for nine yards through 60 minutes of regulation, got open for a scrambling Browning, then tacked on 20 yards after the catch to put the Bengals in position for the winning field goal.
“You guys faced more adversity than maybe than you faced all season in one game today, and you guys found a way to come through in the end,” Taylor said.
With all of the heroics, nothing was bigger than when the middle of the Cincinnati defense stepped up to stop the Vikings on third-and-one and fourth-and-one from the Bengals’ 42-yard-line with just over six minutes left in the extra frame. A first down there would probably have resulted in a game-winning field goal for Minnesota.
“Last night, what did you talk about?” Taylor asked. “The reason that we do everything is so we’re able to finish at this time of the year, and there’s no better image of that than on third and one and fourth and one.”
As Taylor pointed out, this one was a total team effort, which is what it is going to take if the Bengals hope to make it back to the playoffs this year.
“As you guys can tell, there’s no way I can sort through game balls,” he said. “So what does that mean? Everyone gets a game ball.”
And everyone gets to enjoy the rest of the weekend before getting back to work on Tuesday. Next up: the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“We play next Saturday at Pittsburgh,” Taylor emphasized. “All that matters right now is winning and staying healthy.
“But I could not be more proud. This game represents everything that we are as a team, as an organization, as a fan base. I love you guys, I appreciate you. This was an incredible win. That’s a good football team.”
On this day, Cincinnati was the better team.
“Hey, that’s a great team win, baby,” defensive end Sam Hubbard said afterwards. “Hey, a hell of a game, fellows.”