With just over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter on Thursday night, Joe Burrow lined up with five wide receivers. On Burrow’s left, he had tight end C.J. Uzomah and running back Chris Evans. To his right, he had wide receivers Trenton Irwin and Mike Thomas.
None of those four players have had significant roles in the Cincinnati Bengals passing game this season. But in the slot, Burrow had wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. It’s Burrow and Chase that represent the ceiling of the Bengals offense, Burrow found his only great playmaker on the field for a first down.
When the Bengals needed to make a comeback, Burrow made all of the game-changing throws in his best second half of the season. After Cincinnati’s offense was shut out in the first half, Burrow took over and led the Bengals to a 24-21 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on “Thursday Night Football” at Paul Brown Stadium.
Burrow led a five-minute drive at the end of the fourth quarter, and kicker Evan McPherson made a 35-yard game winning field goal.
When the Bengals season was at its lowest point and when the offense looked as lifeless as it has all season, Burrow threw a 44-yards deep ball to wide receiver Chase down the left sideline. The Bengals trailed 14-0 at the start of the second quarter when Burrow called the first deep ball to Chase.
And just like every other team the Bengals have played this season, the Jaguars didn’t stop it. Cincinnati’s first explosive play of the game got the Bengals offense into a rhythm, and that play started the comeback.
It almost looked easy when Burrow led the Bengals back from a 14-point deficit. That drive ended with a play action pass to Uzomah, who picked up most of his yards after the catch on his 22-yard score.
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After a three-and-out by the Bengals defense, the Bengals had a 12-play, 86-yard touchdown drive that tied the score. When the Jaguars took a 21-14 lead, Burrow went back to Chase.
With 10:30 left in the fourth quarter, wide receiver Tyler Boyd had just left the game with a minor hand injury. Tee Higgins, the Bengals other starting receiver, was out on Thursday with a shoulder injury. The Bengals offense often relies on empty set formations, but the Bengals went to a five-man combination that has hardly played together this season.
Uzomah is the Bengals starting tight end, but he has a limited role in the pass game. Evans and Irwin have hardly played this season. Thomas had two catches entering Thursday’s game. The personnel didn’t matter because Chase created separation again over the middle of the field. On 2nd and 9, Burrow found the best receiver on the field for a 12-yard gain to get the Bengals into scoring position.
After a first half where the Bengals only had 107 total yards, Boyd added a 100-yard game, and he delivered with multiple contested catches over the middle of the field on third down. Even without Higgins, Chase and Boyd stepped up in an efficient second half for the Bengals offense.
With five minutes left and the score tied, Burrow had the opportunity to lead his second game-winning drive of the season. He made first down throws to Boyd, C.J. Uzomah and Samaje Perine. When a holding call set the Bengals back, Burrow made a throw to Uzomah under pressure for a 25-yard pickup.
After the Bengals didn’t score in the first half, Burrow led Cincinnati to its third win of the season, and McPherson made his second game-winner of the year.
In the matchup between the previous two No. 1 overall draft picks, Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw for 204 yards and had a rushing touchdown. However, he – as well as head coach Urban Meyer – have yet to experience their first NFL win.