What looked like a sure win for the Jacksonville Jaguars quickly turned into a street fight with the Cincinnati Bengals. After the Bengals offensive showing last week with Jake Browning replacing Joe Burrow, they had all the appearances of a team counting the weeks till the season was over. No one expected Browning to out-duel Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 seed in the sights for Jacksonville.
The Bengals started off with the ball. They managed to get the ball past the 50-yard line. That was partially due to some nice runs from running backs Joe Mixon and rookie Chase Brown and a facemask penalty where a defender removed Tyler Boyd’s helmet. The drive ended on a failed fourth down attempt via Jaguars pass rusher Josh Allen getting his 13th sack of the season.
Jacksonville looked like a well-oiled machine after the failed conversion. Lawrence hit Christian Kirk down the field for a huge game where there wasn’t a receiver within five yards of him. Unfortunately, the receiver went down with a groin injury. Travis Etienne finished the drive getting the pitch on a speed option following the Jaguars converting a 4th-and-1 at around the five-yard line.
The Bengals had another pretty productive drive. It was derailed with a trick play gone wrong that lost eight yards. Cincinnati had Evan McPherson attempt a 57-yard attempt that ended up hitting the bottom crossbar to end up no good. Thanks to a great play by rookie safety Jordan Battle to break up a deep pass on first down, Jacksonville ended up with a three-and-out.
The next drive started from the eight-yard line for Cincinnati after a great punt. It looked like it would end quickly until the offense finally decided it was okay to let Browning throw something aside from a screen pass. He hit Ja’Marr Chase on a big third down to start the drive. Tight end Tanner Hudson also had a great catch and run. Tee Higgins took a smack on his first back to get the ball in a 1st-and-goal situation, and Mixon finished the drive on a powerful run to tie up the game.
It didn’t take long for Lawrence to answer. He was able to hit Calvin Ridley on a back-shoulder pass to Calvin Ridley. Then he tossed a quick screen out to Evan Engram who was able to get to the outside after Etienne knocked DJ Turner inside. It also came against a 0-blitz, so it was an easy score from there.
Browning wasn’t done, though. He was able to engineer a 12-play 75-yard drive that ended in Mixon’s second rushing touchdown of the game. Browning earned a gold star on a few plays. One early in the drive was turning a naked booth out to his left, where the unblocked rusher was headed straight for him into a completion that ended in a first down. A play that should have easily been a sack. He also hit Drew Sample with a beautiful floater over a defender that set up the score, leaving just over a minute left in the half.
The third quarter started out fantastic for Cincinnati. The defense forced a three-and-out, and Browning hit Chase for a 76-yard pass play on 3rd-and-2 to take a 21 to 14 lead.
The problem was the rest of the half that saw the bounces go all the Jaguars way. Lawrence led the offense down to red zone again. On 3rd-and-9 from the 14 he fired a pass to the back of the end zone that was nearly intercepted by Dax Hill, but managed to escape his grasp and ended up in rookie wide receiver Parker Washington’s hands.
Disaster struck the very next offensive play. The Bengals tried to run a trick play where Boyd had an option to pass. The Jaguars defense had everyone covered, but Boyd attempted to make a throw across the field for Mixon. Whether he didn’t see Allen or didn’t get enough air on it is something Boyd would have to explain that for himself, but Allen had the ball thrown right to him for the interception.
The Bengals defense to their credit tried their best to keep Jacksonville out, but Lawrence was able to reach over the ball over the line of scrimmage for the touchdown. It was a 14-point swing from just downright unlucky and bad plays for the Jaguars to take a 28-21 lead.
Cincinnati got the ball back early in the fourth quarter with a short field after the defense didn’t let Jacksonville go anywhere. Browning was able to also convert a fourth down to Chase after failing to connect on third down. Browning also ended the drive himself with a quarterback sneak that apparently got the ball over the goal line. That tied the game at 28 with 9:27 to go.
The Jaguars offense drove the ball well into the Bengals territory with some incredible plays by Lawrence. However, tragedy struck on 3rd-and-long as Lawrence’s left tackle stepped on his leg, and Lawrence was unable to get back up on his own. Something you just hate to see. Clearly an ugly-looking injury that hopefully was worse than it looked. Jacksonville missed the field goal on the following play as the air was let out of the stadium.
Browning wasted no time moving the ball. On the first third down, he ran for 21 yards to get practically in field goal range. Unfortunately, a couple of false starts and a sack on Browning left them with a 3rd-and-22 to hopefully get back into range for McPherson, and they got the sack yards back for McPherson to nail the 54-yard field goal to take the 31-28 lead with 2:28 left in the game.
The Jaguars backup quarterback CJ Beathard came out and scrambled o his first play that resulted in a fumble. DJ Turner had a shot at the scoop but wasn’t able to handle it. The Jaguars ended up recovering it for a first down as the 2-minute warning hit.
Beathard was able to get on track by dinking and dunking underneath the prevent coverage. Then Etienne took a pass and turned the corner, getting it inside the Bengals 30. The defense was able to stop the Jaguars from getting Beathard at the line of scrimmage twice as he tried to scramble. Brandon McManus hit the game-tying field goal with 26 seconds left in the game as the Bengals called timeout with 30 seconds left rather than forcing the kicking team to run on the field with a running clock.
Despite a good Mixon run to start the drive, they couldn’t get into field goal range before the end of regulation. Beathard and Browning headed to overtime with quite a bit on the line.
Jacksonville won the toss and elected to receive. Etienne was able to get the ball into Cincinnati territory with a 13-yard run. Beathard followed it up with a huge play to Ridley that ended up on the one, but it was called back with a holding call on the right tackle that bear-hugged Hubbard. They ended up at the at the 39-yard line and were forced to punt the ball to the Bengals, just needing a field goal to win.
Browning made some big-boy throws on a couple of plays. First, a big one to Chase for 17 yards that Chase juggled in, and then the following third down got Higgins for a first down on 3rd-and-10 to get them on the fringe of field goal range.
Mixon was able to pick up a very short third down to get to Jacksonville’s 31 and two minutes left in overtime. From there, they just ran the ball to eventually end up at the 30 with the game on the line.
McPherson drilled a 48-yard kick with a flag against the Jaguars for leaping. An absolute instant classic, as Browning has his Ryan Finley game.
The Bengals snapped their three-game losing streak with a huge upset under the bright lights in Jacksonville. This was the Jaguars' first home primetime game in 12 seasons with an opportunity to take the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and the Bengals took every punch and threw them right back. They get back to .500 at 6-6 with a shot at the playoffs still technically in reach, and with how they played tonight, that could be pretty exciting.
Also, all thoughts go to Lawrence and hoping the injury isn’t too bad.