Jacksonville (8-4) also finished with a backup quarterback after Trevor Lawrence was injured with about five minutes left in regulation, but the Bengals (6-6) were leading even before he exited. C.J. Beathard led the Jaguars into field goal range in the final two-and-a-half minutes to send the game to overtime.
Here are three takeaways from the Bengals’ win:
1. Night and day from first start
Browning’s second NFL start looked night and day different from his first, as he completed 32 of 37 passes for 354 yards and one touchdown just eight days after the Bengals totaled 222 yards of offense in a loss to Pittsburgh.
The Bengals got off to a slow start as they were using a lot of underneath passes and had a trick play backfire the second drive, which then led to a missed 57-yard field goal for McPherson. But, on the third drive for Cincinnati, Browning started to air out some long passes and that opened the game up for the visitors.
Ja’Marr Chase came up with several big plays, including a 76-yard touchdown reception that gave Cincinnati its first lead early in the third quarter, and he finished with 149 yards on 11 catches and 12 targets. Tee Higgins, in his first game in a month, only was targeted three times but caught all three for 36 yards and one of them was an 11-yard grab on third-and-10 in overtime.
Cincinnati’s one interception wasn’t even a pass delivered by Browning. Tyler Boyd threw that one on a trick play deep in Bengals territory, that allowed the Jaguars to score on back-to-back drives for their last lead late in the third quarter.
2. The running game lives
In a week when the Bengals were emphasizing the need to help Browning more in the running game, they finally figured it out for just their third performance over 100 yards rushing.
Cincinnati ran the ball 31 times for a season-high 156 yards, and Joe Mixon finished with two touchdowns to go with his 68 yards on 19 carries. Rookie Chase Brown, who returned from injured reserve last weekend and didn’t get a carry against Pittsburgh, ran the ball nine times for 61 yards (6.8 yards per carry), and even Browning recorded his first career rushing touchdown as he finished with 22 yards on two attempts.
The offensive line earned credit in blocking and opening up some holes against the fourth-best run defense in the league. The Bengals last week had just 25 yards rushing.
3. Defense did just enough
The Bengals defense started the game in concerning fashion as the Jaguars immediately took advantage of some explosive plays, and it seemed like it was going to end in the same manner when Jaguars backup quarterback C.J. Beathard sliced up the secondary in the final two minutes of regulation.
However, in crunch time, the Bengals did what they do best defensively, limiting the damage when it mattered most. The unfortunate play that Lawrence was injured on was a big one in preventing points as Trey Hendrickson got a sack on third down and then Brandon McManus missed a 48-yard field goal to keep the score tied at 28.
The teams traded field goals in the final three minutes, and Cincinnati stopped Jacksonville on the opening drive in overtime to put the ball back in Browning’s hands to set up McPherson’s 54-yarder to win it.
Lawrence finished with 258 yards passing and two touchdowns, and Beathard added 90 yards on 9-of-10 passing. The Jaguars had 376 yards of net offense, and only 71 of those yards came on the ground. Cincinnati had one of its best performances in the run defense this season, as Jacksonville had 25 carries and averaged just 2.8 yards per attempt.