Recent play has Bengals’ Higgins on pace for 1,000-yard season

Tee Higgins says he is playing the best football of his career.

The second-year Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver posted his third straight 100-yard performance Sunday in an overtime loss to the 49ers and said Monday he has never achieved that feat before, even in college.

“I’m just blessed, and hopefully I can keep it going and make more plays,” Higgins said.

Higgins had been disappointed with a slow start to the season but 366 yards and two touchdowns the last three games now has him on track for 1,000 yards this season.

Last year, he had a chance to reach that milestone as a rookie but he injured his ankle in the last game and played just three snaps. Higgins finished with 908 yards and six touchdowns on 67 receptions.

“Honestly, I’m not even worried about that right now,” Higgins said. “I’m just trying to go out there and win games so we can get to the playoffs.”

The Bengals (7-6) have four games left and now face the challenge of going on the road to Denver to face a Broncos (7-6) team allowing just 17.5 points per game.

Higgins certainly is doing his part to try to help the Bengals win games, but they have fallen short in their last two despite his efforts. He caught five passes for 114 yards on Sunday and recorded 138 yards and a touchdown on nine catches in the Week 13 loss to the Chargers. He also had 114 yards and a touchdown on six catches in the Week 12 win against the Steelers.

The last Bengals receiver to have three straight 100 yards games was A.J. Green in 2013, and he got to five straight before his streak ended.

“That’s the challenge?” Higgins said when told what Green’s streak was. “Is that you challenging me? Hopefully I can. So, we can see if we can keep going.”

Higgins had two touchdowns through the first two games but didn’t get another one until Week 12, when he also recorded his first 100-yard game.

“Now I got my feet wet a lot now so I’m just out there playing free and just using my skills and my talent to go and win those catches,” Higgins said. “… I’m just finding those voids, just taking what the defense gives us. Zac’s calling the plays, so it’s my job to run what he calls and my job to get open for Joe (Burrow).”

Now Higgins is hoping teams don’t try to adjust to account for him like they did with Ja’Marr Chase after he recorded six touchdowns and three 100-yard games over the first seven weeks, including a 201-yard day against the Ravens in Week 7.

Chase was struggling to get opportunities to make explosive plays after that but had two fourth-quarter touchdowns Sunday and finished with 77 yards on five catches to top 1,000 yards for the season. Tyler Boyd also adds 611 yards.

“We’ve got three weapons out there,” Higgins said. “If they adjust then it opens up one of the two other guys.”

Higgins is hoping that despite the loss Sunday, the positive momentum built in coming back from a 20-6 deficit to send the game to overtime can carry over into the final stretch of games, especially this week at Denver. It should be an interesting matchup.

The Bengals are averaging 27.2 points per game, which ranks seventh, and their passing game accounts for 250.1 yards per game (11th best). Denver, in addition to its strong scoring defense, ranks seventh with 345.0 total yards allowed, including 218.6 passing yards per game.

Burrow especially heated up in the fourth quarter to spark the comeback Sunday, and Higgins said it wasn’t surprising.

“It’s a lot of positive momentum,” Higgins said. “We just have to keep going and just complement our defense when they get turnovers. We’ve got go out there and score. We’ve got to stop with these three-and-outs. This past game we weren’t good in the red zone and we weren’t good on third down. We expect to be one of the best in the league on third down and the red zone. We just have to come back and get in the lab and get back to work.”


Bengals at Broncos, 4:05 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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