Jake Browning threw for 354 yards and a touchdown as the Cincinnati Bengals upset the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday night, using a game-ending Evan McPherson field goal to win it in overtime, 34-31.
The Jaguars had come into the game in a strong position, leading the AFC South with an 8-3 record and in contention for a high seeding in the AFC playoffs. The outlook is not so bright now as not only did they lose, but quarterback Trevor Lawrence was forced to leave the game late in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.
Jacksonville looked to have things under control for much of the game, but Cincinnati's offensive stars were still able to shine under backup QB Jake Browning and pulled off an impressive win.
The Bengals had headed to Florida as double-digit underdogs and in last place in the AFC North at 5-6, with their playoff hopes having seemingly been ended by QB Joe Burrow's wrist injury.
His replacement, Jake Browning, was making only his second NFL start, having lost the first one 16-10 to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. Browning had not played that badly against a top defense in his debut, though, and went on to post some hugely impressive numbers in Jacksonville.
He completed 32 of his 37 pass attempts for 354 yards and a touchdown, with the score being a monster 76-yard play to WR Ja'Marr Chase early in the second half that put the Bengals 21-14 ahead.
The teams had traded touchdowns in a first half that ended 14-14, with RB Travis Etienne Jr. scoring the first TD of the game for Jacksonville and tight end Evan Engram scooting in after a 22-yard pass from Lawrence, but each time the Bengals replied with TDs from running back Joe Mixon.
The Jaguars grabbed the lead again heading into the fourth quarter after touchdowns from WR Parker Washington and a one-yard run by Lawrence, but Browning matched that with a rushing score of his own early in the final quarter. The teams traded field goals in the last three minutes, with a 40-yarder from Jacksonville's Brandon McManus sending the game to overtime.
With backup QB CJ Beathard leading the Jaguars' offense in overtime, they were forced to punt from their own 41-yard line on their first possession, and the Bengals were able to set up a game-winning 48-yard field goal from Evan McPherson with less than two minutes remaining in overtime.
The Bengals had been written off by many after Joe Burrow's wrist injury, which required surgery, and they had lost three straight games to fall to 5-6.
However, they showed enough on Monday to suggest that they can still be a threat against even playoff-bound teams as their key offensive players found a groove with Jake Browning at QB.
It wasn't even a safety-first display from Browning, who didn't throw any interceptions, even though the team did post one on an ill-advised pass by wide receiver Tyler Boyd. Browning was on the money with his deep passes, enabling Ja'Marr Chase to post 149 receiving yards from 11 receptions, with fellow wideouts Boyd and Tee Higgins, plus running back Mixon and tight end Tanner Hudson also gaining valuable yardage.
At 6-6 the Bengals are still in fourth place in the AFC North (even though Atlanta leads the NFC South with the same record) but they have a chance to get right back in the playoff picture this week as they host another wild-card contender in the Indianapolis Colts. The Bengals are now only one-point home underdogs for that game after Browning's impressive night.
Zac Taylor's team have +15000 odds for the NFL Championship, but will be feeling much better about the rest of this season after their impressive success on Monday.
The Jaguars are 5-0 in road games this season, but the loss to Cincinnati means they now have a worrying 3-4 record at home. Their biggest concern heading into Week 14, though, will be the injuries they picked up in the game, most significantly to QB Trevor Lawrence, but they also lost wide receiver Christian Kirk to a groin injury early in the game.
With this being a short week for Jacksonville, there is not much recovery time available for Lawrence before Sunday's key road game against the Cleveland Browns, and with the Baltimore Ravens coming up after that, there is a risk that the Jaguars could drop down the AFC rankings if Lawrence is out for a prolonged period.
Heading into Week 14, the Jaguars are still solid favorites in the AFC South at -250 odds, with the Houston Texans (7-5) at +400 and the Indianapolis Colts (7-5) at +500.
Doug Pederson's team are the eighth-favorites in the NFL Championship betting market at +2000 odds, San Francisco 49ers (+300), Kansas City Chiefs (+500), Philadelphia Eagles (+600) and Ravens (+700) at the top of the odds list.
The Jaguars had opened as three-point road favorites for the game in Cleveland on Sunday but are now underdogs of one-and-a-half points.