The Cincinnati Bengals looked dead in the water through nearly two quarters of play Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars, unable to generate anything on offense or get a stop on defense.
After getting down 14-0 to open the third quarter, the Bengals offense then became unstoppable. Joe Burrow led three straight touchdown drives in the second half, the defense got just enough stops, and the second-year quarterback guided a 5:33 game-winning field-goal drive to close out the 24-21 win.
“There’s no panic in the locker room,” Burrow said of the comeback win. “We knew we didn’t play great in the first half. It is what it is. But we had all the faith in the world that we were going to come out and play well in the second half. We’ve been a second-half team. We’re going to have to keep that finish, and we’re going to have to play better in the first half on offense, but I’m proud of the way we fought back.”
The Cincy offense was a wayward ship for most of the first half. Following a 66-yard drive that led to a missed field goal to open the game, the Bengals generated a single first down in four drives the rest of the half.
Then came a crucial moment in the final minute of the second quarter. With the defense getting licked by a frisky Jags offense led by rookie Trevor Lawrence, the Bengals made a stand, stuffing the Jags at the 1-yard-line on fourth-and-goal. Avoiding going into a 21-0 hole was huge, with the Bengals getting the ball after the break.
“It was the turning point of the game,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “It was about to be 21-0 right before the half. That is a tough hole to dig out of. We believe we could do it, but you certainly don’t want that going into halftime and them getting the momentum. It felt like the momentum came back in our favor. Our defense finally got the chance to rest because the offense was leaving them out there. They had 15 first downs right out the gate and the defense was gassed with a short week — that all factors into it for both teams. We hung them out to dry on offense, so that was huge for them to bow up and stop it. Our entire red zone defense has been tremendous through the first four games. That’s big. Keeping points off the board is critical.”
From there, Burrow took over. The QB was magnificent, firing darts over the middle to Tyler Boyd, finding Ja’Marr Chase deep and repeatedly connecting with tight end C.J. Uzomah. The QB completed 25-of-32 passes for 348 yards and two TDs. He set career highs in completion percentage (78.1%), yards per attempt (10.9), and passer rating on the day (132.8). It marked the QB’s first 300-plus yard game since Week 7 of the 2020 season and his most passing yards in a win.
Before last night, the Bengals had lost 20 straight games when down by 14 points or more — their last win was in Week 5, 2018, vs. Miami.
We saw the best of Burrow in the second half Thursday, including redirecting Uzomah on a scramble drill for a huge play. Then on the final big play to Uzomah, Burrow checked to a jailbreak screen against a zero-blitz that put Cincy in position to kick the game-winner.
“Yeah, that’s football, though,” Burrow said of the frenetic ending. “That’s the NFL — it’s not going to be perfect. You’re going to have to find ways to win when everything’s against you and your back’s against the wall, and that’s what we did today. I’m proud of the way we fought.”
It was ugly early against the winless Jags, but the Bengals showed the ability to right the ship and get the W even after the first-half struggles. Previous Cincy teams would have come up short.