ANALYSIS: 5 things to know about the Bengals thrilling win over the Vikings

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals won their third game in a row without Joe Burrow and remained in the AFC playoff chase with a 27-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday afternoon.

Coach Zac Taylor’s team rallied twice in the fourth quarter to force overtime then got big plays on both sides of ball to set up Evan McPherson’s 29-yard walk-off field goal with 3:11 left in the extra session.

“It’s an emotional game,” Taylor said. “That thing was a roller-coaster. That’s kind of like the season a little bit. You just hav ego be able to stay composed and not panic.”

Here are five things to know about the game:

1. Jake Browning overcame early struggles to post another big day.

Early on, Browning’s fourth start for the injured Burrow looked more like his first — when he struggled in a loss to the Steelers — than the last two, when he was sharp and productive in wins over the Jaguars and Colts.

But Browning got hot as the game went on, completing 20 of 27 passes after halftime and engineering four scoring drives.

“I feel like I need a beer, but I’m right off a cramping incident so I’m probably going to pass on that,” he said after the game. “That was rollercoaster.”

After throwing an interception in the third quarter that led to a Vikings field goal that put the Bengals down 17-3, he led three straight touchdown drives and finished with 324 yards on 29-for-42 passing.

“That’s what you want to see from you quarterback, a guy who doesn’t get too high or too low,” Taylor said. “He’s able to move on, and that’s exactly what he did.”

2. Tee Higgins had a day.

The Bengals No. 2 receiver dropped a ball early that was under thrown, but he made an incredible 21-yard touchdown catch to tie the game at 24 with 39 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

“Our receivers coach Troy (Walters) came up to me and said, ‘It’s time to be the alpha,’ and then I was able to do that and make those plays,” said Higgins, who finished with four catches for 61 yards, including a 13-yard TD that started the Bengals comeback in the fourth quarter.

With a defender draped on him, Higgins leapt up to grab the ball at the 1-yard line then turned and stretched it over the goal line before falling out of bounds.

“I knew I caught it around the 1 so I just took a wild guess and reached back and looked up at the ref and he had his arms up,” Higgins said.

3. Injuries continue to mount.

Stalwart defensive tackle D.J. Reader left the game on a cart in the first quarter and was quickly ruled out with a knee injury. Reserve cornerback DJ Ivey also was unable to return after injuring a knee covering a punt.

Star receiver Ja’Marr Chase also was unable to finish the game after suffering a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter.

“I don’t think it’s positive for D.J.,” Taylor said after the game. “We’ll see on Ja’Marr. I don’t know yet enough on Ja’Marr.”

Offensive linemen Ted Karras and Alex Cappa both left with injuries briefly but were able to return and finish the game.

4. The defense got gashed.

But Lou Anarumo’s unit made two takeaways in the red zone in the first half to keep the game close and got the ball back for the offense in overtime.

“We know who we are as a team,” said cornerback Mike Hilton, who had an interception at the goal line in the first half. “The know what we’ve done over these last two years. When we play our brand of ball, we’re a hard team to beat.”

Backup quarterback Nick Mullens completed 26 of 33 passes for 303 yards while backup running back Ty Chandler ran for 132 yards for Minnesota.

Jordan Addison had 111 yards on six catches and Justin Jefferson caught seven passes for 84 yards, but the Vikings had two three-and-outs (and one touchdown drive) in the fourth quarter and turned the ball over on downs in overtime.

5. The playoffs are still in sight.

The win moved the Bengals, at least temporarily, to the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoff picture. They are among 10 teams in the conference with six, seven or eight wins, so much is to be decided the rest of the weekend and the final three weeks of the season.

“Now I’m just able to think about Pittsburgh and what we need to do,” Taylor said of next week’s opponent. “It’s really too much to think about down the road all week. We need to control what we do these last three weeks. You don’t have to worry about everybody else. I’m confident if we just win this next one, then we’re in control of what we can control.”

Game ball

With clutch plays in all three phases of the game, this was the epitome of a team win. Everyone gets a piece.

Stat of the day

Browning completed passes to 11 different Bengals, including a clutch 44-yarder to Tyler Boyd to set up the game-winning field goal in overtime.


Saturday, Dec. 23

Bengals at Steelers, 4:30 p.m., NBC, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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