CINCINNATI — The Bengals flirted with spoiling a massive opportunity to gain early-season momentum Thursday night.
In many ways, this was a game the Bengals couldn’t really afford to lose. Cincinnati was a significant favorite over the winless Jaguars, the NFL’s worst team in 2020. The game was also on national TV and a de facto homecoming game that featured the unveiling of the franchise’s overdue Ring of Honor.
If the Bengals want to be in the playoff hunt in December, they need to win the easy games on the schedule in the early part of the season before the degree of difficulty increases.
Cincinnati fell behind 14-0 Thursday night and was booed at the end of the first half. In the second half, the Bengals’ offense turned things around behind Joe Burrow, who notched the sixth 300-yard passing game of his career.
And thanks to a 35-yard field goal from rookie Evan McPherson to clinch the victory, Cincinnati was able to pick up back-to-back wins and gain momentum heading into a break before its Oct. 10 contest against the Packers.
"This was the first quarter of the season," Bengals coach Zac Taylor said of the first four games. "And right now, we’re up seven to nothing."
Describe the game in two words: Disaster avoided. Cincinnati narrowly avoided a loss that would have dented any playoff hopes.
Sell a breakout performance: Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah had some kind of night. He had a career-high 95 receiving yards, including a massive 25-yard reception that set up the game-winning field goal. Given Cincinnati’s offense, that kind of production isn’t going to be sustainable. But it was definitely the performance the Bengals needed.
QB breakdown: Cincinnati got a strong performance from Burrow, who went 25-of-32 passing for 348 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He led the offense down the field and was able to milk the final 5:33 off the clock in a drive that ended with a field goal on the final snap. Burrow avoided any big mistakes and was able to dissect a susceptible Jacksonville secondary.
Pivotal play: The Jaguars went for the jugular late in the first half. With Jacksonville up 14-0, the Jaguars opted to go for it on fourth-and-goal at the Bengals’ 1-yard line. However, Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi stopped Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence for no gain. If Jacksonville scored, that might have been too much to overcome. Instead, the Bengals were able to stay in striking distance.