Browning helping to keep Bengals postseason hopes alive

Published 1:06 am Tuesday, December 12, 2023

CINCINNATI (AP) — With a 34-14 thumping of the Colts on Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals climbed above the .500 mark for the first time in a month.

That didn’t seem likely after Bengals franchise quarterback Joe Burrow was lost to a wrist injury and backup Jake Browning was pushed into service.

The 27-year-old Browning was a superstar in high school in California and threw for 12,296 yards and 94 touchdowns at the University of Washington but hadn’t gotten much traction in the NFL.

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Browning is taking advantage of the opportunity. He’s been outstanding in his past two starts and has the Bengals hoping to reach the playoffs again in a crowded AFC race that has them among six teams sitting at 7-6.

Browning threw two touchdown passes and rushed for another score in Sunday’s win over the Colts.

In the previous game, he passed for 354 yards and a touchdown in a win at Jacksonville.

He distributed the ball to eight different receivers Sunday as the Bengals tied their season high for points.

“Jake is leading the offense and running the show,” said Tee Higgins, who had critical receptions of 46 and 26 yards Sunday. “We’ve got to keep playing to his strengths and keep doing what we do.”

Coach Zac Taylor said Browning, who was on the Bengals practice squad for the past two seasons, was a well-prepared veteran by the time he was called on to replace Burrow.

“(The backup) just needs to step up, be prepared and play as best as he can without our starter out there. Jake has done that,” Taylor said.

“The guys believe in him, but it’s not about one guy. It’s the unit coming together, and the defense and special teams up supplementing that. I think the team effort has been outstanding the last two weeks.”


Cincinnati’s offense was balanced against the Colts. Running backs Joe Mixon and Chase Brown combined for 104 rushing yards and 126 receiving. The offensive line had one of its best games, allowing zero sacks. The defense held the Colts to 46 rushing yards and sacked Gardner Minshew three times.

“It all seems to be flowing well,” Browning said.


The Bengals converted just 3 of 11 third down attempts. … Colts WR Michael Pittman Jr. often got between Bengals defensive backs, getting eight catches for a team-leading 95 yards.


Brown has made the most of his playing time after dealing with a hamstring injury earlier this season. He had the biggest play of the game against the Colts, gathering in a short pass and racing 54 yards down the right sideline for Cincinnati’s first score. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Brown hit a top speed of 22.05 mph on the touchdown. That’s the fastest by a Bengals ball carrier since NFL Next Gen started tracking in 2016.


TE Irv Smith Jr. hasn’t had a pass reception in the past two games. He was signed as a free agent to be a pass catcher, but Drew Sample and Tanner Hudson are being used more in that role.


CB Cam Taylor-Britt (ankle) was put on injured reserve on Dec. 4. The second-year player has been one of the Bengals best defensive backs. He could possibly return before the end of the season.


0 — Points allowed in the second half by the Bengals against the Colts.


Continue to play well around Browning for a tough closing stretch that includes the Vikings (7-6) on Saturday, followed by the Steelers (7-6), at AFC West-leading Kansas City (8-5) and Cleveland (8-5).