Bengals’ Browning vows to keep pushing

CINCINNATI — Jake Browning still doesn’t have a ton of NFL starting experience, but the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback said he doesn’t feel any more pressure facing high-stakes games over the last two weeks while trying to lead his team into the playoffs.

The Bengals game at Kansas City on New Year’s Eve was expected to be a marquee matchup between two of the top teams in the AFC. Instead, both are fighting for playoff spots. The defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs (9-6) still lead the AFC West but haven’t clinched after losing four of their last six games, and Cincinnati likely needs to win its last two to get into the postseason.

Browning said the game means the same to him as it would have if the Bengals had already clinched a spot in the playoffs.

“It’s a pretty high intensity work environment regardless,” Browning said. “I’ve waited a long time to be able to start some games, so like I’ve said before, it’s not like this is my 200th start and it’s just another game. I don’t know what number start this is, but it’s not a lot, so I’m pretty focused on trying to make the most of this opportunity and play well against the Chiefs. The longer you’ve been in football, the more you realize it really is just next week, next week. OK, you have a bad game. How do you bounce back from that and adjust to the mistakes you made but not lose your stinger of being aggressive and being able to toe that line while also dealing with the highs and lows of winning and losing. The teams that are able to respond to that well are the teams that are making those playoff runs and ultimately end up winning Super Bowls.

“No team has ever made it through the whole year without being questioned. … So you’ve got to be able to take that on the chin and not lose your edge, not let it get to your head, adjust what you need to adjust to and keep it pushing.”

The Chiefs have greatly improved defensively since the Bengals faced them twice last year. Cincinnati won a December matchup in Cincinnati before falling in the AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium with Browning on the sidelines in street clothes as the third-string quarterback. Kansas City was a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of points allowed in 2022 but are surrendering just 17.7 points per game as a top 10 defense this season.

Browning could be helped by the possible return of wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who was out last week because of a separated shoulder and remains in question for this week. He participated in a walkthrough Wednesday and was at practice in the afternoon but working on the rehab field.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said they will “just see how the week progresses with him” and the same goes for cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, who was cleared to practice Wednesday after being on injured reserve with an ankle injury the past four weeks. Taylor-Britt was a full participant Wednesday and would be a big boost to the defense preparing for one of the league’s top passing offenses.

Chase played one of the best games of his career against Kansas City the first time the team met during the 2021 season when he had 266 yards and three touchdowns on 11 catches in a 34-31 win Jan. 2, 2022. He also had 97 yards on seven catches last year in a regular-season matchup.

“That would be big to have Ja’Marr,” Taylor said.

Against an improved Kansas City defense, Browning could use all the weapons at his disposal.

“They mix up a lot of different calls, throw a lot of different stuff at you,” Browning said. “… They do a great job. They’re the defending Super Bowl champs, so they got a good defense, and obviously the front is good, too. I think anytime you play against a team that’s high level, there’s going to be guys in every part of the defense that kind of make it work.”

Browning is looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance Saturday at Pittsburgh, where he threw three interceptions that led to 17 points in a 34-11 loss.

After looking at the film, Browning said his biggest issue was trying to force throws, and he can’t afford to do that against good defenses. The same will be true at Kansas City with pass rushers like defensive tackle Chris Jones coming at him. The crowd noise at Arrowhead Stadium adds to the intensity.

“They’re going to take away certain things and you’re gonna have a rush whenever you play, especially these better teams,” Browning said. “Everyone’s got a pass rusher, and so, not letting them speed up the clock in your head or have like a panic throw, where you’re throwing to someone that you kind of know is covered, but you’re trying to get to the ball to avoid taking a sack. It’s gotta click in my head, just get to the check down, and you know, especially with first and second down, live to play another down.”


Bengals at Chiefs, 4:25 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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