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Michael Conroy/Associated Press
With the game tied and five minutes, 33 seconds remaining, Joe Burrow led a 10-play, 73-yard drive, setting up a 35-yard field goal by Evan McPherson that lifted the Bengals to a 24-21 win as time expired. Cincinnati improved to 3-1 after overcoming a 14-0 halftime deficit.
The Jaguars may have been winless, but they gave the Bengals a competitive game that came down to the wire. Still, Cincinnati continued its strong start, which has also featured an overtime win over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1. Its lone loss was a 20-17 defeat to the Chicago Bears in Week 2.
Here are three takeaways from the Bengals’ Week 4 win.
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Michael Conroy/Associated Press
In Burrow’s 14th career NFL game, he had one of his best performances yet. It’s an encouraging sign for him and the Bengals, who took the quarterback out of LSU with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft and have been building their team around him since.
The 24-year-old flashed his potential during his rookie season, but that was cut short when he suffered a torn ACL in Week 11. During the first three weeks of 2021, he has played well. But he took his game, and his leadership skills, to another level on Thursday night.
Burrow went 25-for-32 for 348 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He tied the game at 21 by throwing a 31-yard touchdown pass to tight end C.J. Uzomah with 8:59 to go in the fourth quarter, then led an impressive game-winning drive, the second of his career. (His first came in Week 1 against the Vikings.)
“I’m really happy with my performance tonight,” Burrow told reporters after the game. “I’m going to keep building on this and getting better and better.”
It’s no surprise that the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner is having NFL success now that he’s healthy and has more experience, and he’s likely right that he’ll continue to improve.
Burrow is going to have performances like this in the future—probably even more this season—and it’s going to be fun to watch.
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Emilee Chinn/Associated Press
As impressive as the Bengals’ 24-point second half was, it wasn’t a position they wanted to be in. They had nothing going in the first half, with their first four drives resulting in a missed field goal and three punts. Meanwhile, the Jaguars scored touchdowns on two of their first four possessions.
It’s not always going to be possible for Cincinnati to overcome that type of halftime deficit and rally for victories. Jacksonville is 0-4 and enduring early-season struggles. Other teams won’t be as likely to blow big halftime leads and fail to put away the Bengals if they’re in that type of hole.
“We did not play great football, they generally beat us in all three phases,” Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor told reporters. “But we get a whole second half to play, so there was no reason to panic. Nobody did. Everyone was calm, cool and collected.”
Still, the Bengals can’t continue this trend of falling behind early or they could encounter some trouble later.
In Week 1 against the Vikings, they didn’t score for the first 28:13 of the game; in Week 2, they trailed the Bears 7-0 at the half; and in Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, they had only seven points through the first 29:23.
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Bryan Woolston/Associated Press
It was going to be tough for the Bengals to make the playoffs out of the AFC North this season, and that’s still the case. The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns are both 2-1, while the Pittsburgh Steelers are 1-2. The battle for the division title may not be decided until Week 18.
Don’t count out Cincinnati, though, because this 3-1 start doesn’t seem to be a fluke, having earned solid wins against Minnesota and Pittsburgh. Plus, it should be in position to pick up at least two more victories in October, considering it plays the Detroit Lions in Week 6 and the New York Jets in Week 8.
If the Bengals are going to win the AFC North, though, they’ll need to contend with the Ravens (who they play in Weeks 7 and 16) and the Browns (Weeks 9 and 18). Otherwise, Cincinnati will likely end up battling for a wild-card berth. Even so, that’s a huge step in the right direction, considering the team hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2015 and had only six total wins over Taylor’s first two seasons at the helm from 2019-20.
This early in the season, it can be tough to say whether a team will still be in the postseason hunt when it gets to be December and January. But the Bengals have a bunch of playmakers on offense, a solid defense and, as they showed again Thursday night, an ability to overcome adversity to pull out close wins.
Don’t be surprised if Cincinnati keeps this up and continues to impress throughout the rest of 2021.