Wow! Just, wow!
With everyone counting the Cincinnati Bengals out, they showed up Monday night and showed they are still in the fight.
The Bengals entered Monday night’s game with a road losing streak, 0-9, and a road primetime losing streak, 0-15.
Jake Browning silenced a lot of doubters, including me. I saw the way he performed last week, and I was hoping they would at least give McCarron a shot, but he proved himself to be a guy to believe in, and maybe, just maybe, give the Bengals a second chance with this season.
Jake Browning under the Monday night lights:— NFL (@NFL) December 5, 2023
354 passing yards
1 passing TD
1 rushing TD
First win as an NFL starter
Everything the @Bengals could've hoped for and more. #CINvsJAX pic.twitter.com/XbPIXqlUA2
There honestly wasn’t much that he didn’t do or didn’t impress with. He showed poise, stayed in the pocket, scrambled when necessary, and made plays.
The best part about it is that he’s acting like a professional.
Jake Browning on if he was emotional tonight: "Surprisingly, no."— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) December 5, 2023
"I haven't played a lot of NFL football, but it's not like I'm not used to winning. I've won a lot of football games in my life."
A few weeks ago, Rich Eisen talked with QB consultant Jordan Palmer, a former Bengals backup quarterback and brother of Carson Palmer, about Jake Browning. He broke down Browning’s play and how he approaches the game and takes advantage of his opportunities.
Jordan warned everyone about Browning's future games.
Not only did Browning show up and play phenomenally, but he also played historical. He was locked in and loaded. He finished with an 86% completion percentage, the fifth-best in Bengal's history. He even joined a list of Hall-of-Famers with his performance.
The list of QBs with 350+ Pass Yards and 85% comp pct in a game over the last 20 years— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) December 5, 2023
▪️JAKE BROWNING pic.twitter.com/qwCyelhAoX
But again, quarterback success is largely affected by the offensive line. We have seen time and time again games, including the Bengals, where the offensive line underperforms, and the outcome usually correlates with a loss.
There has already been plenty of that talk this season with the Bengals line. Something needed to change. They loaded money into this unit, and we haven’t seen them perform to the best of their ability.
Burrow’s injury is obviously unfortunate, and we would all (no offense to Browning, especially with that performance) choose to have Burrow under center still. But that offensive line proved their worth Monday night.
Ted Karras in pass protection vs. the Jaguars— PFF CIN Bengals (@PFF_Bengals) December 5, 2023
43 pass-blocking snaps
0 sacks allowed
0 pressures allowed
Again, under a ton of scrutiny, hats off to Zac Taylor. After of swarm of fans for the last few weeks begging for the Bengals to switch up the play-calling, they came out and switched up a bit.
Not perfect by any means, but progress is progress. They spread the ball around, got more people involved, and stuck with the run game.
Chase Brown showed his potential. He found the holes and hit them, and he definitely had an eye-opening performance.
The Bengals had two backs with at least 60 rushing yards and eight players with a reception, including five players with at least 30 yards. Brown showed obvious reasons why the Bengals drafted him. He showed explosiveness, agility, and speed.
But as always, let’s look at the flip side. Brown gained just seven fewer yards than Mixon on 10 less carries. Imagine if Brown had a few more carries, and that’s not a knock on Mixon at all, considering he found the end zone twice on Monday night. Brown is a perfect complement to Mixon.
A promising thing I noticed after the game was Brown acted like a veteran and gave props to his offensive line, the credit they deserve. They opened holes up to allow success for both backs.
“I didn’t have to do too much. The OLine took care of everything up front.” Chase Brown pic.twitter.com/FeNYINHAAY— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) December 5, 2023
Mixon looked like old Mixon again. People want to see Mixon rush for 100 yards, and they may not see that, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. The Bengals use him in all situations, because he is very versatile. He racked up 117 all-purpose yards with two touchdowns.
One of the Bengals' most consistent, if not the most consistent part of the squad is the receivers. They were very present in this game. With the Bengals spreading the ball around and involving several different receivers, Ja’Marr Chase still managed to rack up almost 150 yards and a touchdown.
From now on, though, make sure the receivers are just catching the ball, not throwing. That experiment failed.
My only negative takeaway from the game, and it’s being picky from that performance, is the defense. In big moments, they made a stand, but they still need to fix a few things. They gave up over 300 yards in the air but did keep a very good running back, Travis Etienne Jr, under 50 yards.
Lou Anarumo needs to find a way to tighten the coverage. There were several plays, including the play Christian Kirk was injured on, where the receiver was way too open.
Yes, stats are facts, but you have to look at the overall picture. The defense played well overall. There weren’t too many yards after the catch. They tackled fairly well. Once this defense fixes and tweaks a few things, this can be a solid unit under Lou.
They’re also still top five in turnovers. They have potential.
Now, whether or not you trust Monday night’s game or not, as long as the Bengals can play like that, exactly like that, and maybe even a little better, they still have a real chance to make the playoffs. Not just a mathematical chance but an actual chance.
Yes, the Bengals still have a very tough schedule ahead of them, but next up, they host the Colts, playing very well with, also with a backup quarterback, Garner Minshew, and their RB1, Jonathan Taylor, out.
After that, they play the Vikings, likely with one of the league's top receivers, Justin Jefferson, who has been sidelined for over a month due to a hamstring injury.
Then, another rivalry game, with the Steelers, as of now, playing with a backup quarterback.
Over the final two regular-season games, the Bengals travel to Arrowhead to face the Chiefs for the continuation of one of the NFL’s best rivalries, then finish the season off, and potentially a lot at stake, hosting the Browns, also with a backup quarterback in Joe Flacco.
The Bengals lit a fire with this victory. Let’s see how long this flame can stay lit.